One thing I've been wondering about is why most of the characters have multiple names. Traditionally, an author will introduce a character using both first and last names, and then use just one throughout the novel, usually the last name. Pynchon instead uses many names for each character. Slopthrop, Tyrone, Rocketman, Raketenmensch, etc. Greta, Margherita, Mrs. Erddman. Enzian, Oberst, (that name that starts with an n that I cannot remember). At the end of the novel there is a lot of commentary about the fragmentation of Slothrop. On page 752 it says, "He is being broken down instead, and scattered.
Although I'm sure some of it went over my head, I was particularly fond of the long chapter in section 4 that was broken down into short snippets of moments and stories. This section is near the end of the novel (in the 700's pages) and I feel that it opens up some new ideas while pulling others together (especially regarding Slothrop). I'm just going to talk about a few of the sections I thought were interesting and see what you guys think.
Quite a few of these sections dealt with Slothrop, specifically his childhood and his family. One section, called "Mom Slothrop's Letter to Embassador Kennedy" was particularly interesting to me because it's essentially a letter where Slothrop's mother self-consciously expresses her serious concern for little Tyrone. She came off as an intensely depressed woman who drowns her sorrows in a falsely cheery demeanor and one too many martini's. She begins the letter very playfully, but says she feels like "they're pieces of the Heavenly City falling down." She says "Sometimes things aren't very clear [...] in my heart I kep getting this terrible fear, this empty place, and it's very hard at times to really belive in a Plan with a shape bigger than I can see" (682 in my book). Perhaps she feels regret and confusion about the things Tyrone is being subjected to, but is grappling with the people who tell her that it is necessary. I think this highlights the plight of multiple characters in this book who are working towards a cause they don't fully understand, or are driven by anonymous powers and forces.
I've noticed Slothrop undergoing some interesting character changes as we've continued. (Note: I'm not referring to the reading for today, which I haven't yet begun. Go go speed reading!) When we first meet him, he doesn't really seem emotionally connected to anyone; though he definitely has his share of human interactions, they don't seem to mean anything to him.
That starts changing when he gets to the Riviera, specifically once people start leaving him. He pines after Katje, and his anger over Tantivy's death drives him out of France. He starts to realize this change when he says goodbye to Geli: "It is taking him longer, the longer he's in the Zone, to remember to say aw quit being a sap. What is this place doing to his brain?" (338) He sticks with Margherita, despite being frightened by her obvious batshit insanity, and gets immediately and deeply attached to Bianca.
A continuation to Kodiak Sasha's post:
There's an important bit about the pigs on page 564-5 that I'm not really exactly sure what to make of in light of Slothrop taking up the pig suit.
Man in the Western World abides by the rules of the system, but in the colonies where he is free from the system, he may follow his natural impulses alone. "Christian Europe was death" (322) in the same way that the text constantly reminds us that the system fueling the war and its aftermath depends on death. To lose sight of death and indulge life in the colonies is to free oneself from that system.
The lengthy descriptions of Slothrop in the pig costume and later Osbie Feel's tattoo (page 651) reminded me of the discussion we had about animals and colonialism on Jan. 31st in class, where Herreros, then the Europeans are animals...
I went back and looked at the text on page 322 to see which animals are referenced, if any. It reads:
"...Oh, no. Colonies are much, much more. Colonies are the outhouses of the European soul, where a fellow can let his pants down and relax, enjoy the smell of his own shit. Where can he fall on his slender prey roaring as loud as he feels like, and guzzle her blood with open joy. Eh? Where he can just WALLOW AND RUT and let himself go in a softness..." (caps mine).
I was struck by a passage as I was reading today. In it, Slothrop, Otto, Narrisch and Springer are walking along and the townspeople begin to crowd them, begging, when Springer pulls a gun.
"They're hungrier today," observes Narrisch.
"True," replies Springer, "but today there are fewer of them."
"Wow," it occurs to Slothrop, "thats a shitty thing to say". (503)
This is the first time in the book so far that I remember any issue of right or wrong in a society or real judgement/morality has been expressed by a character, or at least by Slothrop. Part of what makes the book somewhat interesting to me is its complete amorality to this point. It also makes the explicit sex much easier to stomach, as it occurs in a vaccuum, with only the valences that I/readers bring to the text.
As I was walking back to the dorms just now, I was thinking more about the passage the final group presented on page 291, in which Slothrop figures out he was sold as a child to IG:
"He knows what the smell has to be: though according to these papers it would have been too early for it..."
I was reminded that Freud's stages of child development include an anal phase, immediately following the oral phase we experience during infancy. The theory is that during the oral phase, we seek out our mother's breasts, and explore with our mouths for love and approval. We then progress to the anal phase, which is about CONTROL- we learn to control (or not) our bowels and exert some authority via our ability to shit.
The passage about the elongated S-shaped tunnels seemed to highlight the contrast between the scientific and softer, human aspects of the characters, especially Slothrop. On one hand the tunnels could be interpreted as a double integral sign-- the text goes on to explain this more in depth with lots of scientific jargon. "That is one meaning of the shape of the tunnels down here in the Mittelwerke. Another may be the ancient rune that stands for the yew tree, or Death" (306). The companion explains that "the rune SS signified a tree symbolizing strife" (190). Honestly, I didn't fully understand that one. My favorite interpretation, however, is the final one:
I still don't understand what the Imipolex G is and what it's connection is to Slothrop's life. In the companion (page 147) it says that Slothrop is piecing together the information he knows abotu this plastic, the rocket, and his conditioning as a child... I'm not sure I'm piecing it together. Anyone got any ideas?
I notice that Slothrop's constant sexual encounters make me take him less seriously as a character. This is not just because it makes him, as my friends and I like to say, a "man whore".
Slothrop's relationship to Katje was set up as "special". That is, he seemed to really care about her and Pynchon spent more time talking about them. Slothrop even talks about missing her. Yet he goes on to have sex with anything (female and human) that moves. So this means he has a complete disconnect between sex and emotional attachment, or he really doesn't care that much. I think it's amusing that, for someone so paranoid, he doesn't really hesitate to have sex...well, I guess since it seems meaningless to him in the long run, it does make sense.