A Question of Freedom

“I would set you free, if I knew how. But it isn’t free out there. All the animals, the plants, the minerals, even other kinds of men, are being broken and reassembled every day, to preserve an elite few, who are the loudest to theorize on freedom, but the least free of all.” (Pynchon 233).

I was skimming ahead to find this quote, and that might make my interpretation of this poor, but I really liked the idea of this quote. I was having some trouble finding a quote that really spoke to me, so you can imagine how lucky I felt to find this, haha. I have been struggling to understand this book because of Pynchon’s prose that he uses throughout this novel. I admit, it has been a struggle. But that quote I chose I feel as if it is much larger than simply pertaining Gravity’s Rainbow. 

I think Pynchon is trying to say several things in this quote. The first one referring to the elect and the power they have. War is a “rich man’s game and a poor man’s fight”, essentially meaning that the ones who start the wars (politicians, governmental leaders, etc.) are the ones starting, getting involved, and funding the wars in the name of freedom but free themselves. I took this as them being trapped in a cage of greed and power. These “elite” don’t know what it is to be free. But what is freedom? America is a free country, but free from whom? Other countries? Our own government?

I know I’m starting to ramble a little bit so I’m going to break this down, hopefully, to make clear what I’m trying to say.

“I would set you free, if I knew how. But it isn’t free out there.” This first portion of the quote brings up my question of what it means to truly be “free”. We are bound by the rules and standards, of other men and women, that we don’t necessarily agree with. I think one of the most obvious examples of this is gay marriage and general rights. People are being denied the simplest of rights in a “free” country. That’s not freedom, but I’m starting to go off topic again.

I think that the speaker of this line (Webley Silvernail) is trying to say that despite the fact there is this facade of freedom, there isn’t truly freedom out there. They are engaged in a war that doesn’t necessarily involve them simply because they have to. For example, certain countries (America, England) involve themselves in wars simply to reap the benefits (land, money, weapons sales, power move). Benefits of war? Crazy, I know.

But as Webley acknowledges when he says, “an elite few, who are the loudest to theorize on freedom, but the least free of all.” What could this possibly mean? In my opinion, Pynchon is suggesting that (as I said before) the “elite” are not free by their own standards. They are slaves to the desire for greed and power and a corrupt system. In this struggle for liberation, “All the animals, the plants, the minerals, even other kinds of men, are being broken and reassembled every day, to preserve an elite few,”.

In short, this quote’s purpose is to describe the lack of freedom despite the proclamation of being free, and the the elite destroying all below them in the name of freedom, despite being free themselves.

So I know I made this really confusing, and I asked a lot of questions, so input is welcome!

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One Response to A Question of Freedom

  1. dab148 says:

    Hey there,
    I enjoyed reading your post. I’m not sure the context of the quote because I haven’t read that far ahead, but it certainly is a striking choice. It’s sort of interesting that the speaker is critiquing the elite few for theorizing on freedom loudly, while they themselves theorize on freedom. I think it implies that they’re only speculating softly, timidly. The speaker seems sure that the world isn’t free, but leaves open the possibility that one could be made free. I think you are right in saying that the speaker doesn’t believe the elite to be free by their own standard. I think they’re also saying it is the elites who are guilty of withholding freedom from those beneath them by breaking and reassembling them. Breaking and reassembling those in their power, and then manufacturing a concept of freedom in order to maintain authority. To the speaker, authority doesn’t equate to freedom, and he clearly doesn’t subscribe to their definition of freedom.

    Best,
    David

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