During WW2 many countries sent hundreds of thousands to millions of young men into battle to fight for the causes and interests of the country. By the causes and interests of a country I mean the causes and interest of the elite members of the country who are the decision makers. Those who have the power to declare war. I think that in this passage Pynchon is firing an attack upon these elite members. He does this by illustrating what the lives of the millions of young soldiers were like.
“Brush your teeth and go toddling off to war” reminds me of a parent telling their child, “brush your teeth and go to bed. These young soldiers, fighting and dying in the war, have just barely graduated from this stage of their lives. They are so young that the days of their parents telling them to brush their teeth and go to bed almost overlap with them being told to “toddle” off to war. They are toddling because they are too young to even walk or run to war.
In fact, the soldiers are so young that they have never had the opportunity to experience independence. Their parents no longer tell them what to do, when to go to bed, because now the military does. Because of their age, there was never a time in the lives of these men in which they had the opportunity to make their own individual decisions. This makes their death in war even more tragic and cruel, as so many lives were cut short before they even knew what kind of people they were.
When Pynchon writes, “wave your hand to sleepy land” I believe that he is also firing an attack towards not only the elite members of society, but society as well. The fact that the soldiers are specifically “waving” goodbye rather than simply “saying” goodbye sends the message that society does not want to have to accept and come to terms with the most difficult part of war, the loss of human life. The young soldiers that they are sending away have a large chance of being killed. And yet, rather than taking responsibility for the fate they are sending the soldiers to meet, they want to be waved to. They don’t want to think about what will happen to the men. They also don’t want to think that anything bad may befall the soldier that is waving to them. It is easier to believe that nothing will happen to the individual they are waving to. It is someone else’s soldier, loved one, who will be killed. It could never happen to them or someone that they care for. They want their soldier to wave, to let “sleepy land” continue to keep on sleeping.
Another reference to the youth of the soldiers is from a sexual standpoint. The men have not reached adulthood, or have just barely reached adulthood, and thus have had none to very few sexual experiences. The must “tell Miss Grable that you’re not able.” This is a reference to Betty Grable, who was a major actress, singer, and model in the 1940s, known particularly for her long legs. Miss Betty Grable was a prominent sex symbol in the culture of the time period. Not only will the men to have to refrain from sexual experiences with the girl next door, but if one of the most prominent and sought after women of the time wanted to sleep with them they would be unable. They would have no choice but to say no, “not till V-E day.”
“Not till V-E day” will the soldiers be able to have sexual experiences and make their own decisions, but they will be unable to live their own lives until the conclusion of the war. Until that time the men will have to “kiss those dreams away.” In total, over 60 million people died in WW2. This fact is an example of the novel being metafictional. Pynchon, the work itself, and the people reading it from 1973 onward, all know that the death toll in WW2 was monstrous. Therefore, it is a harsh reality that many of the men will never see the conclusion of the war that they gave their lives for because many will die. They will never have the opportunity to live and will never experience independence of any form.
beenjamin-y on The Preterite and the Ele… John on The Adenoid and Nazi Germ… Guadalajara –… on The Preterite and the Ele… Alan Schultz on Death Battle: Marx vs. Ma… Gravity’s Rain… on The Séance of Walter Rath…
Tagsantonio marquez Authenticity Banana Breakfast Bibliography Biography Bleeding Edge Boris Kachka Chapman lighthouse character map characters Chinua Achebe christopher lee cinema cinematic imagination Crash and Burn die frau im mond fay wray film film theory fire of paradise Friedrich Nietzsche fritz lang fu manchu Games of Truth Gravity's Rainbow Gravity's Rainbow Criticism Gravity's Rainbow plot groucho marx Heart of Darkness i'll say she is Illustration Introduction to Critical Reading Ivory jessica John E. Badass Joseph Conrad Kabbalah katje Kurtz Marlow marx brothers meggezone Metatron metropolis Michel Foucault On Truth and LYing in a Nonmoral Sense Paranoia parrhesia PhD Pop Culture psychology Pynchon Pynchon Criticism reference Research Rob Horning roger sax rohmer Slothrop Social Media Sparky Sweets statistics summary Svati Kirsten Narula The Atlantic theatre The New Inquiry Thomas Pynchon Thug Notes true self Truth tyrone slothrop Vheissu Vulture Zak Smith