SUPERNATURAL OTHER WORLDS AND SPIRITUAL AFTERLIFE IN THOMAS PYNCHON'S "GRAVITY'S RAINBOW"

ROBERT L MCLAUGHLIN, Fordham University

Abstract

Gravity's Rainbow is a text that refuses to cooperate in its own interpretation, denying the critical assumptions of any methodological approach. This study recognizes this refusal and offers a personal reading of the novel developed from a study of the theme of the supernatural, aware that such a reading can demand neither endorsement from the text nor exclusivity from other readers. Instead, this study attempts to analyze characters, interpret symbols, and discover patterns in a way that may help other readers, while reminding them of the novel's own refusal to be interpreted.^ This study develops its argument from a close reading of four important parts of Gravity's Rainbow. First, the Advent Evensong shows that humans have divided and defined the holistically unified real with systems of knowledge in order to understand it. Instead, these systems have distorted the real, creating a phenomenal world which we know through our senses but which is a barrier between us and the real. The Elect uses these systems of knowledge as structures to control the phenomenal world. Second, Tchitcherine's story shows the inadequacy of these systems of knowledge, particularly language, to represent the real. However, it also offers the possibility of escape from the phenomenal world into the real. Third, Enzian attempts to destroy the world's structures of control and reestablish a recognition of the holistic universe. Blicero attempts to create an act of control that will end the history of control and result in his transcendence beyond cyclical change. Both use the V-2, but both fail. Fourth, Slothrop's story summarizes the novel's pictures of the supernatural and shows that transcendence is possible, but only with the loss of individuality, into the basic universal forces of nature and being.^ However, to be fair to the novel, this study questions the critical assumptions that make this interpretation possible. Gravity's Rainbow does not support the notion that the novel itself and its use of language originate in the real. In fact, it indicates that there is no such real. Furthermore, the novel questions and undercuts the reader's and the critic's urge to complete it. ^

Subject Area

American literature

Recommended Citation

MCLAUGHLIN, ROBERT L, "SUPERNATURAL OTHER WORLDS AND SPIRITUAL AFTERLIFE IN THOMAS PYNCHON'S "GRAVITY'S RAINBOW"" (1987). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8714584.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8714584

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