Pynchon's Mythography: An Approach to Gravity's Rainbow

Pynchon's Mythography: An Approach to Gravity's Rainbow

Pynchon's Mythography: An Approach to Gravity's Rainbow

Pynchon's Mythography: An Approach to Gravity's Rainbow

Synopsis

The exhausting plenitude of loosely connected detail in Gravity's Rainbow makes it a favorite of postmodern critics, who claim it describes a modern, random, unknowable universe. Hume expands the possibilities as she discloses a mythic structure that underlies Pynchon's work and provides easier access to his world. "Myth turns chaos into cosmos," Hume explains, describing how the profuse detail of Pynchon's book allows for the creation of a "world humankind shapes out of chaos by means of ritual and myth... a set of interlocking stories... [that] fit into a narrative sequence or mythology that conveys, supports, and challenges cultural values." Pynchon's "mythology is not rigidly consistent," Hume notes, but "several strands of mythological action... serve a stabilizing function in this chaotic book." Pynchon creates his own "unheroic" hero to show the way for making sense of the fragmented experience of life in the postmodern world.

Excerpt

Pynchon's pyrotechnics—dazzling, fragmented, explosive, surreal, and violent—have convinced most readers that Gravity's Rainbow is a new form of fiction. That novel seems bent on rendering problematic all the discourses we associate with traditional and modernist fiction and presents us with an unknowable reality by means of an almost unknowable text, leaving us to cope as best we can. Even our attempts at interpretation are discredited as a form of paranoia, as an open admission of the terror we feel when confronted by chaos. Critics who expound upon this epistemological and ontological hatchetwork in Gravity's Rainbow have indeed taught us much about the text and about the philosophical issues facing contemporary literature, but their collective achievement is not a balanced assessment. Despite uncertainties, much that concerns Pynchon can be deciphered, and he is very far from having abandoned all traditional values and novel-writing techniques. As I shall argue, there is a vein throughout the text of Gravity's Rainbow that counters all assertions of unknowability.Pynchon has, in fact, used a mythology to give structure and values to his fictive . . .

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