Essay PreviewMore ↓
From the author of Gravity's Rainbow (1973), the famous apocalyptic novel of World War II, comes Vineland (1990), a trip into the California of 1984: a Reagan-era wasteland of yuppies, malls, food-preservatives and, above all, the Tube: the Cathode-Ray Tube. The opening line of Gravity's Rainbow, "A screaming comes across the sky," which describes a V-2 rocket on its lethal mission, finds a way into Pynchon's latest work, albeit transformed: "Desmond was out on the porch, hanging around his dish, which was always empty because of the blue jays who came screaming down out of the redwoods and carried off the food in it piece by piece."
One passage describes war. Another tells of birds stealing dog food. The change in scope is huge, but misleading. Some readers may scoff at first at Pynchon's subject matter-hippie holdovers running from narcs-but there is no mistaking Vineland's connection to Gravity's Rainbow. The newer work acts as a corollary to the older one.
The book begins with Zoyd Wheeler waking up one summer morning with some Froot Loops with Nestle's Quick on top. He lives in Vineland County, a foggy, fictional expanse of Northern California which makes a great refuge for wilting flower children. Zoyd is one of them-a part-time keyboard player, handyman and marijuana cultivator who acts publicly crazy (he jumps through glass windows once a year on television) to qualify for mental disability benefits. He and his teenage daughter Prairie both mourn the disappearance of Frenesi Gates, who was mother to one and wife to the other. Frenesi was a radical filmmaker during the 60's until she was seduced by Brock Vond, a federal prosecutor and overall bad-guy/nutcase who turns her from hippie radical to FBI informant. With her help he manages to destroy the People's Republic of Rock and Roll.
Fast-forward two decades. Frenesi is about to be kicked out of the Witness Protection Program because the government is tired of subsidizing her. Zoyd wants to find her, for obvious reasons. Vond, still the charismatic little psychopath, wants Frenesi back too, and decides to kidnap Prairie to get her. Prairie, the only sane and sober person in the book, also wants to meet Frenesi, the mother she never knew.
But there's more, like in any Pynchon novel: Vond is apparently the ultimate law-enforcement spoilsport and he's not done hounding guys like Zoyd.
How to Cite this Page
"Comparing Gravity's Rainbow and Vineland." 123HelpMe.com. 19 Sep 2019
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow Thomas Ruggles Pynchon was born in 1937 in Glen's Cove, New York. He is the author of V., The Crying of Lot 49, Gravity's Rainbow, Slow Learner, Vineland, and Mason & Dixon. Nothing else is known of this author (not exactly true, but close enough to the truth to make that last blanket statement passable). He has attempted to veil himself in total obscurity and anonymity. For the most part, he has succeeded in this, save for a rare interview or two. In 1974 he received the National Book Award for Gravity's Rainbow.... [tags: Pynchon Gravity's Rainbow Essays]
761 words (2.2 pages)
- Postmodern novel as a genre is mainly intertextual because it often goes beyond the paradigm of literature and borrows its material from different fields of study like science, geography, history, astronomy and so on to make a collage of different theories and citations for shaping a literary text in a new dimension. Thomas Pynchon was a student of Engineering Physics at Cornell University. It is therefore not surprising that he uses science as a background for the interpretation of literature. His main aim is to interpret the postmodern condition where life has taken a new dimension in the midst of enormous influence of science and technology.... [tags: postmodernism, science, philosophy]
1444 words (4.1 pages)
- Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon and Gravity's Rainbow ....."Snow-Balls have flown their Arcs..." These words begin the wondrous passage that introduces us to the world of Thomas Pynchon's latest masterpiece, Mason & Dixon. In an obvious parody of "A screaming comes across the sky," the opening of Gravity's Rainbow, Pynchon sets the mood and pace for the rest of the novel. In contrast to the mindless pleasures, hopeless desperation, and ubiquitous death that dominate virtually every page of his apocalyptic earlier work, this novel begins with a joyful snowball fight between children on the streets of eighteenth-century Philadelphia.... [tags: Mason Dixon]
3935 words (11.2 pages)
- Summary Borehole gravity gradiometry is becoming a more common technique to help in understanding the subsurface in the oil and gas industry. It can be combined with other techniques and well logs to form a very thorough interpretation of the target formations. The development and methodology of borehole gravity gradiometry and how it can be used in downhole applications is explained along with the advantages and disadvantages of this method. Introduction Gravity gradiometry has been a widely used technique for surface applications in the oil industry, but its use as a downhole tool provides a new way to investigate the borehole and allow for better resolution in projects like reservoir mo... [tags: history and development, vertical gravity]
1242 words (3.5 pages)
- The Gravity Bong I was introduced to the gravity bong by a friend. He told me the full name as described to him was the "Afghanistan Gravity Bong". We were sitting around one night and decided to try one out. While I could go into detail concerning the mechanics of the bong's operation, I don't think that is really necessary. The reason it is called a "gravity bong" and not something else is this is what someone called it, that is how they described it to their friends, and now it is an accepted term for the following setup.... [tags: The Gravity Bong]
1079 words (3.1 pages)
- When the Sun's light is refracted on passing through tiny rain droplets falling in the air a Rainbow is formed. Rainbows only need light from the sun or the moon and a large amount of spherical raindrops to form in the atmosphere. The rainbows can be compared to mini prisms. The light is refracted ("bending of light as it passes from one medium to another") and it causes different wavelengths (or colors) of the white light to separate. Whether these wavelengths of light will pass through the raindrop or reflect depends on the angle the light strikes the back of the raindrop.... [tags: physics rainbow rainbows]
1758 words (5 pages)
- Tom Clancy Rainbow Six This book was published by G.P. Putnam's Sons in New York, USA. Copyright date is 1998. There are 740 pages in this book. Thomas L. Clancy, Jr. was born on the 12th of April 1947, he is married and lives in Maryland, USA. Clancy's novels can be classified as Military-Techno-Thrillers. He has written fiction and non-fiction books, Rainbow Six is a fiction book. As for other titles, well there are just to many to list, in total 23. Some books that he has written are The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, to list a few.... [tags: Tom Clancy Rainbow Six Author Book Summary Review]
1436 words (4.1 pages)
- Gravity has many benefits to humanity. It holds us to the earth so we do not fall off the earth and die in space. It holds the planets in orbit around the sun, and moons in orbit around their planets. It also holds stars in orbit around the center of the universe. (Gibben, page 14) Sir Isaac Newton thought that God created a perfect universe. He thought our universe was so perfectly designed that if God left the universe could run by itself. This view was extremely different early pagan scientist and offered new views about gravity.... [tags: essays research papers fc]
387 words (1.1 pages)
- Gravity is really an unknown force. We can define it as a field of influence, and that it effects the entire existence of the universe. Some people think that gravity consists of particles called gravitons, which travel at the speed of light. The only thing we do know is how gravity operates in different parts of our universe. Without gravity, there would be no space and time. There is a legend that says that Galileo once dropped two objects off the Leaning Tower of Pisa to show that the heavier of the two objects dropped faster.... [tags: essays research papers]
1275 words (3.6 pages)
- The Effects of Gravity There are some people who worry that when they're outside, if they don't keep a good grip on the ground, they'll just go flinging off into space. They needn't really worry about this, because gravity generally keeps that sort of thing from happening. The thing is, no one is really sure what causes gravity, but the effects have been studied by many physicists and astronomers. Three of the more obvious effects of gravity are things falling down, weight, and the the moon and planets staying in their orbits.... [tags: essays research papers fc]
1078 words (3.1 pages)
- Unspoken Comparison in Tacitus's Germania
- Dorigen’s Character in the Franklin’s Tale
- The Theme of Loneliness in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
- The Imperfect Creator in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
- Fear of Pregnancy in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
- Nature and Nurture in Frankenstein and Rappaccini's Daughter
Maybe with other novelists the title of a work can be dismissed. Certainly, no one is going to look for symbolic meaning in the title Airframe. But Pynchon is an acknowledged master of prose whose intricate symbolic order is unmatched by any other writer of his generation. So, it's time to puzzle it out.
Vineland is, of course, the name of the physical setting of the book, but it's also the name given to this continent by Leif Ericsson, the Norseman who is presumed to be the New World's first European visitor. It is a name older than America and it was that of a land untouched by the hands of the ancestors of its present inhabitants.
But there is nothing untouched about 1984 California. In one of the more courageous moves he makes, Pynchon deliberately uses a shriveled language in this novel. There is none of the experimental prose that made Gravity's Rainbow such a wonder of modern literature. Even in a relatively accessible novel of his like The Crying of Lot 49 there is a plentitude of subtle pun and ribbing for those who can get it. But Vineland's prose is so flat and simple that it actually looks different on the page from a distance.
And it's perfect. As mentioned earlier, Vineland acts as a corollary to Gravity's Rainbow. Pynchon certainly didn't try to top his earlier work, but Vineland is still a wholly remarkable book. Where Gravity's Rainbow was about resisting ordered systems of thought (which he sees as both dehumanizing and dangerous to human perceptions of truth), Vineland is about the aftermath that seems all too inevitable now. In that way Vineland is Pynchon's darkest book.
Over and over again in the book there is the juxtaposition of promise and reality. Pynchon celebrates the 60's but laments its aftermath. Pynchon celebrates America yet condemns what we have been doing to ourselves in recent years.
Then the meaning of the title becomes clear. Vineland is the story of ideals sacrificed, revolutions betrayed, and it's a step further down the path to hell than Gravity's Rainbow. Hippies became Yuppies. Virgin Vineland became America under the Reagan Administration. The frontier became Vineland Mall. The Wizard of Oz became the Boob Tube.
If Gravity's Rainbow was three parts apocalypse and one part hope, Vineland is nine parts suicide and one part wistful nostalgia. But even here there is a spark of hope that makes Vineland worth reading. Prairie carries a lot of emotional baggage around, but she never stops striving for what would be mawkish ideals if presented by any other writer: courage, kindness and intelligence.
Pynchon spends a lot of time establishing Prairie's redemptive nature with a Wizard of Oz fixation that shows itself several times in his works. (The quote "Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore" introduces section 3 of Gravity's Rainbow.) One time he tells us that a snapshot of California "couldn't have been Kansas anymore (120)." He uses Kansas to represent the ideals America has sold away.
Like the executrix Oedipa Mass in The Crying of Lot 49 she is a good hearted person who is trying simply to make some sense out of this huge mess that she has inherited. Pynchon leaves open the possibility of renewal-but not too open. Even Prairie, this last hope, is afflicted. She can think of nothing better to do at a pivotal moment in the book than sing the Gilligan's Island theme song. (Pynchon's favorite show is reputedly The Brady Bunch. Even geniuses watch crappy television. Ironic.)
Since Gravity's Rainbow was set in World War II, Vineland is his only work dealing exclusively with our present state since 1965. He felt a need to venture back to the present, perhaps because he sees the future growing more and more like his novels. He would be right. Way back in the 50's and 60's writers such as him and Vonnegut grew wary of technology. In the 80's and 90's there is more to frighten Luddites. Pynchon had a chance to see television transform our culture and there is no question that the implications of a generation shaped by a cable network-the so-called "MTV Generation"-have not passed by him unnoticed. While he sees more humor than dire consequences, he makes his worry evident. Vineland may be dark and barren in comparison to the rest of his work to date, but it is invested with a greater urgency than any of them.
Pynchon, Thomas. Gravity's Rainbow. New York: Penguin, 1973.
Pynchon, Thomas. Vineland. New York: Little, Brown, 1990.