Thomas Pynchon, author and recluse, is somewhat of an enigmatic personality to psychoanalyze. Despite the fact that there is almost nothing known of his life, his books, at first
appearance, seem to shed little light on the man himself. To be sure he is as
multi-faceted as his text, Gravity's Rainbow, which he described as a series of transparences laid over each other. "You know, Bruce, those high school biology texts with centerfold transparencies, first the skeleton, and
then the muscles...well this is the technique I use for writing. Yet throughout this opus there are intimations of a personality as well as various
phobias and desires.
Secondary revision plays a major
role in the novel as its inaccessibility. The sheer incomprehensibility and size
of the novel makes any interpretation difficult at best. Pynchon's recurring
images of death, control, sexuality, and technology serve as a pictorial arrangement of his latent ideas. Subsequently the obscenity of the text causes the reader to be distracted by concepts, which are not the
real center of the novel. Looking past these manifestations, we are able to see
his complete personality condensed into the text.
Pynchon seeks to portray himself
as a humble recluse being dissipated throughout culture. Thus after the protagonist's
death/ascension the reader "would expect to look among the Humility, among the gray and preterit souls, to look for him adrift
in the hostile light of day, the darkness of the sea..." (GR 742). In order to
keep the reader engaged throughout his egotistical romp, he utilizes the aesthetic of humor as bribery. He seeks to be viewed as free-spirited and full of love, yet we know that "a happy person never phantasies,
only an unsatisfied one" (Gay 439). What then are his phobias and desires?
His major wishes are for power (through
control), love (through sex), information, and, ironically, death (through science).
Power represents itself as the paranoiac's ultimate control of the world around him.
"In an insane world...paranoia represents an attempt to establish sanity, to create order out of chaos. The pervasive perversity is the most ready representations of a desire for love
through sex. It is love in the face of cyclical death as seen through Pirate
Prentice acknowledgement that, "if he is to keep dragging himself up the ratchet's teeth one by one he does need to pause
in human touch for a bit" (GR 547). The novel is replete with completely obscure
information, which Pynchon calls, "the only real medium of exchange," (GR 258) in a world gone insane. His final desire for death, though bizarre, is found throughout the novel.
The main character, Slothrop, is on a quest after a mythic rocket, provided with his own father figure who it turns
out he made up, "to help him explain what he felt so terribly, so immediately in his genitals for those rockets each time
exploding in the sky...to help him deny what he could not possibly admit: that he might be in love, in sexual love, with his,
and his race's, death" (GR 738). Here we see repression covering for a sexual
attraction toward death, even genocide, through science. It is a tie between
Pynchon's desire for sex and his technological desire for information. His love
for technology (he graduated from Cornell as an engineer) is made apparent throughout the text. Slothrop's supposed father, Jamf, talks of moving beyond the organic Carbon-Hydrogen bond and "'toward
the inorganic. Here is no frailty, no mortality--here is Strength, and the Timeless.'...as
he wiped away the scrawled C--H on his chalkboard and wrote, in enormous letters, Si--N" (GR 580). The obvious, and ingenious, pun is that as he moves "'beyond life, toward the inorganic,'" he encounters
SiN. This is the most biblical fall represented through science. Jamf seeks to become as a god and surmount creation, through Sin, which leads inevitably to death. Death in this case being of one sacrificial lamb inside the rocket at the books close,
as well as the possible mass-death of Pynchon's time in his fear of nuclear war. Herein
lies his fear of technology.
Pynchon, who once helped design rockets for Boeing, is caught in the guilt ridden paradox of his
love for science and his love of life. Using Slothrop again as his object of
transference he, "observes his coalition
with hopes for success and hopes for disaster about equally high (and no, that doesn't cancel out to apathy--it makes a loud dissonance that dovetails inside you sharp as knives)" (GR 676). This ironic dissonance carries us over to Pynchon's fears. His major fears are death
(as discussed above), disconnect from culture, and complete sublimation. As a
recluse he naturally fears becoming completely disconnected with culture. His
protagonist therefore ends his life by dissipating throughout Europe, thus becoming connected to every individual and being
remembered throughout culture. Slothrop becomes part of culture by making his
final, albeit cameo, appearance on a record album cover. Pynchon becomes part
of culture by releasing his text into the world. Conversely, he fears sublimation. Diversion of his sexual aims leads toward technology and eventually toward global
cataclysm. In classic Pynchonian poignant irreverence, he portrays the military
brass as forsaking love. Whereas in World War I these same officers loved each
other, in a sexual way, now they love only the War. "In this latest War, death
was no enemy, but a collaborator. Homosexuality in high places is just a carnal
afterthought now, and the real and only [screw]ing is done on paper..." (GR 616). Pynchon
cannot accept this and so interweaves sexuality throughout his text, to prove and redeem his humanity.