A Purpose to Pynchon’s Complicated Writing Style

So after class yesterday, I was thinking about how Gravity’s Rainbow has been a difficult text for everyone thus far. Personally, I’m also frustrated with the novel frequently because I can’t comprehend what is going on. I realized that I am not as great at interpreting literature as I thought, which is rather disheartening because being an English major I feel like I should be able to understand this novel, but I don’t.  So reading this novel has been a rather humbling experience. I started to consider why Pynchon decided to write his novel in such a complex and often confusing way. Perhaps it is just his writing style, but there is probably more to it than that. Maybe one of the purposes of his difficult writing style in the novel is to serve as an equalizer amongst all of his readers. What I mean to say is, is that everyone seems to be collectively puzzled by Pynchon’s novel no matter what reading background they come from. Even those who are usually on top of close interpretations of more profound novels, nevertheless seem to be stumped by Pynchon’s work. This confusion seems to put all of Pynchon’s readers on an equal playing field. It doesn’t matter who you are or how smart you are. Your interpretation of the novel could be as valid as any other reader’s.

I thought this might relate to one of the themes we discussed in class about Calvinism and the distinction between the elect and the preterite. It was discussed that Pynchon’s stories often centralized among the members of the preterite which could mean that he may have found the members of the preterite or “underdogs” of society worthier to write about as opposed to members of the elect, who believe they are superior to everyone else. By doing this Pynchon amplifies the importance of the preterite as opposed to the elect, equalizing the two groups. Granted we are still very early in the novel and I am still unsure how this theme is going to lay itself out in the storyline, but maybe Pynchon plans to make a stand that there isn’t a true distinction between the elect and preterite. No one is born better than someone else. In reality we are all born the same way. We are equal to each other. So relating the complicated storyline as a whole to this theme, maybe Pynchon’s writing style seeks to humble its readers (especially those who may fall under the “elect” group in society) in which we are forced to realize that we may not be as smart or great as we think we are; therefore we aren’t better than anyone else.

I know I don’t have a full understanding of this particular theme of the novel, and that I am merely attempting to scratch the surface of it. However, I would like to know what anyone else thinks about whether this theme could correlate with Pynchon’s writing style. Additionally, I am sure there are other reasons behind Pynchon’s writing of course. Does anyone have any other ideas of what could be the purpose or reasoning behind Pynchon’s complicated writing style?

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3 Responses to A Purpose to Pynchon’s Complicated Writing Style

  1. mjw113 says:

    I like your idea of the complexity of Gravity’s Rainbow serving as an equalizer for Pynchon’s readers, especially as it pertains to the Elect and the Preterit. I hadn’t considered that Pynchon might be trying to project his idealized version of that odd relationship (which would be one that doesn’t exist, presumably) onto his readership. That thought didn’t cross my mind as I was reading the initial sections, but I do have a theory on why he wrote this the way he did.

    Given the complex meaning of just the title of this work, I think Pynchon’s ultimately going to try to make a very complex point, which will require the retention of a fair amount of the information he’s giving his readers early on. That it seems complex is a result of its density, and its density is a result of its detail. With that said, I think that Pynchon is looking to overload the reader with detail to some extent, and the purpose of this is to ensure that certain points stick with the reader.

    For instance, did anyone forget that Pirate was making dishes out of bananas for breakfast? I don’t think so. Is anyone going to forget that the initial setting of this story was London during the Blitz? I don’t see how they could. That these details stick with the reader is a result of a wealth of detail and repetition. He must have mentioned bananas one hundred times in a three-page span and he’s consistently instilled in the reader’s mind an image of a crumbling London. That’s no accident. I think this is Pynchon’s way of making sure that the reader retains key points of the story for interpretation later on.

  2. jcm93pitt says:

    Your post was really insightful! I’ve been pondering reasons why Pynchon wrote this novel in this way as well, and I wholeheartedly agree with a lot of your points.
    One possibility that I’ve been mulling over is that Pynchon writes in this way to give insight into the feelings of the characters without explicitly stating them. Think about it – these people are living in a war zone. Living in such an environment would perpetuate feelings of nervousness, insecurity, and complete paranoia. I think this shines through in Pynchon’s writing style. It’s all over the place, but also has a purposefulness and sense of reasoning.
    Just a thought! Good job though, I think there are a million different things that could be said about Pynchon’s style of writing in this novel – it’s definitely a huge thing to consider when reading it.

  3. Beth says:

    I really like this view of Gravity’s Rainbow. I also find myself getting so frustrated when I read it. I thought Heart of Darkness was pretty difficult at times, but Pynchon takes it to a whole new level, and I will get to the end of pages or even sections without having any idea what I just read. I like the suggestion that we are all kind of on an even playing field and that Pynchon is trying to prove that with Gravity’s Rainbow. I am hoping as the novel goes on, I will start to understand his style a little bit more and that maybe that will help, but for now it is definitely a struggle.

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