Jessica’s Expression

Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow is chock-full of dozens of references to history, pop culture, science, etc. So for our blog assignment it was difficult to choose just one reference to focus on. For my main post, I decided to go with a reference to something that I knew nothing about, thus opening my eyes to a better understanding of the novel. But one reference as I was reading about a week ago struck me, so I wanted to post something about it, because I knew it could be easily overlooked.

When I was a kid, my grandfather used to tell me that Fay Wray, the blonde actress in the original King Kong film from 1933, was my great-great-grandmother. It was an inside joke that he would play on all of the young children in our family, as my grandmother’s maiden name was Ray (different spelling, I know, but as a six year old, it was believable).

So on page 58 when Jessica gives Roger “her Fay Wray look, eyes round as can be, red mouth about to open in a scream,” Pynchon is referring to Fay Wray’s famous performance in King Kong (Pynchon 58).

It may seem like an insignificant detail that could be easily overlooked in the text, but all of the seemingly insignificant references in this book are what make it truly interesting and unlike any other.



Work Cited

Pynchon, Thomas. Gravity’s Rainbow. New York: Penguin, 1973. Print.

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2 Responses to Jessica’s Expression

  1. I found this post interesting because in two of my own posts I have mentioned Shirley Temple and Betty Grable, both prominent and symbolic women of the past. When I read your explanation of the “Fay Wray” reference, it clicked that Pynchon alludes to women in history frequently (I’m sure there are more that we have missed) … I wonder why he does this so often? What is Pynchon saying about the roles of women in society during these times? I feel like many of the books I have read do not reference women this frequently. This is now something that I will pay attention to and think about for the rest of the novel. Thanks!

  2. jcm93pitt says:

    Wow, great point! Especially after considering our discussion a week ago (when we had class outside) about whether or not Pynchon’s work is sexist. I think these allusions are definitely worth a closer look, particularly to anyone interested in addressing the roles of women in this novel. Thank you!

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