“Chop several bananas into pieces. Make coffee in urn. Get can of milk from cooler. Puree ‘nanas in milk. Lovely. I would coat all the booze-corroded stomachs of England… Bit of marge, still smells all right, melt in skillet. Peel more bananas, slice lengthwise. Marge sizzling, in go long slices. Light oven whoomp blow us all up someday oh, ha, ha, yes. Peeled whole bananas to go on broiler grill soon as it heats. Find marshmallows…” (Pynchon 8)
This quotation is from Captain Geoffrey (“Pirate”) Prentice’s banana breakfast scene. The structure of this paragraph is different than other paragraphs because it is completely linear, present and focused. A stream of consciousness that is so focused on one subject is rare so far in the novel. The concentration on the breakfast seems to be an escape for Pirate because it is a time he excludes almost everything but bananas from his thought process. The utterances “oh, ha, ha, yes” are what indicate the paragraph is showing his full thought process. The process is very intimate; it uses almost all of Pirate’s senses. The scene is a break for Pirate from usual busy thoughts and also a break in the busy narration. The banana breakfast routine is described like a recipe, when and how to add each ingredient. One reason the simplicity of the fruit is drawn out because it is dependable. Pirate may be so famous for his banana breakfasts because people crave the magnificently natural and simple routine that Pirate has.
With a constant uncertainty about safety from rocket bombs that cannot be heard until they have already hit, bananas are an item much more reliable. Pirate can slice, cook, and serve the bananas however he pleases. He can also watch the growing process and pick them from the roof garden whenever he pleases; he is mostly in control of the outcome. The bombs are more unpredictable. The science and production of a bomb is not natural biology like a plant. Even though the life of a plant cannot be completely controlled, it is more controlled than technology that can be constructed into a method of mass murder. The bananas from the roof garden specifically are not thought of as construction and instead are thought of as a creation from God or a miracle because of their great size. In the narrator’s earlier discussion of the bananas, he says, “the soil’s stringing of rings and chains in nets only God can tell the meshes of…” (6) God is generally thought of as a force with more power than any human and the ability to put that power to use at any moment. This description runs parallel with the way I would describe a rocket bomb however, the difference is the intention behind the force. Mostly, God is supposed to be a power with a good purpose in mind behind every action; God has a plan. Bombs have a plan of destruction, which religiously is not seen as any kind of good intention.
I have presented these differences between bananas and rocket bombs within this story but they are also in many ways similar. In class, we discussed the meaning of the title of the novel. Just a quick reminder, we considered inescapable quality of gravity and the naturalness of rainbows. We thought of rainbows as a whole circle, which might say something about the structure of the story. In calling bombs “gravity’s rainbow,” Pynchon is pointing out the cycle in rainbows and bombs, perhaps the cycle of light in a rainbow along with the cycle of killing in a bomb, which connects to the cycle of history? It is interesting that Pynchon sets aside so much time to talk about bananas, which also have a cycle. The cycle for the life of a banana or a garden is natural and existed before human intervention, just like rainbows. I have a companion written by a different author, but I noticed on the most recent version of Steven Weisenburger’s A Gravity’s Rainbow Companion, the cover shows an image of a rocket bomb taking off inside of an image of a banana. The illustration does not come from Pynchon himself, but it seems I am not alone in seeing similarities between the rocket bombs and bananas. What do you guys think? Even after peeling away at the scene, I still feel split.