Pynchon invests his work with mythological associations on a vast scale

…Pynchon…invests his work with mythological associations on a vast scale, in a manner both deliberate and mocking, utilizing both central myths of Western civilization and popular culture myths. Orphic myths, manifested in various descents into the underworld, jostle against Faustian legend, which calls for trips up the Brocken, the Walpurgisnacht mountain, and these in turn are juxtaposed with fairytales like Hansel and Gretel, children’s stories like Alice in Wonderland or the Wizard of Oz, and archetypical figures from movies, such as Dracula, King Kong, and Jack Slade. In addition, there are allusions to classical, kabbalistic, and Christian contexts. By far the most significant are references to Norse and Teutonic myth. Swirling in the background of the novel are the trappings of Northern epic: runes, the Northern Lights (the flickering light given off by the Valkyries), dwarves, the titans Etzel and Utgarthaloki, and rainbows (the bridge to the abode of the gods), The distillation of meat and the novels first scene. Two of the principal figures are Blicero, or “white,” and his former love, the Herero Enzian, or “blue,” a name Blicero borrowed from Rilke; the body of the Norse goddess of death, Hela, is half white, half blue.

From Joseph W. Slade’s long essay “Living on the Interface: Preterition in Gravity’s Rainbow.” The essay is part of Slade’s 1974 book Thomas Pynchon, part of Warner Paperback Library’s “Writers for the 70’s” series.


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