Gravity's Rainbow

by Thomas Pynchon

Start Free Trial

What was Pynchon's societal impact with Gravity's Rainbow?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

 Gravity’s Rainsbow is steeped in the life styles and politics of  the counter culture. It asks questions such as: do alternative cultural practices lead to change in social history? can culture transform patriarchy, capitalism, or western civilization? In the 60s, listening to different music, wearing different clothes, or doing drugs not only defied cultural norms, but heralded an altogether new order of being. People in the counter culture hoped, for example, that flowers or free love would stop the missiles by changing the consciousness of the missile makers. The novel provides tons of fun, the satisfaction of siding with the hippie good guys, the turn-on of rebellion and transgression, and of course laugh-out-loud hilarity. However, the novel lacks closure, not finally answering the questions it raises: it does not say whether or not that we can, say, stop the war in Iraq by smoking pot in the United States or doing some other type of transgressive activity—which is what many thought during the sixties in regard to the Viet Nam war. On the other hand, and in response to its site on Wikipedia, GR also has a “Wiki” page, which in itself is a piece of the present counter culture in that it frees knowledge from books and academia, putting the authority of knowledge in the hands of people—mostly kids—who contribute to the page. The URL is below.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There is an interesting scholarly article on Pynchon's novel titled, "Pynchon and the Sixties"  by David Cowett.  Cowett argues that "Pynchon puts his finger on a major anxiety of the sixties. He saw and charted the way paranoia on the left began to vie with an older, less imaginative paranoia on the right."  Many people identified with Pynchon's anxieties and general feeling of the perceived wrong-headed direction of the country. 

Here is an except from the article (a link appears below):

Published a scant three years into the new decade, the novel does not ignore the years in which it was presumably being written. Here Pynchon transforms the counterculture of those years into the Counterforce...(the) augury of nuclear annihilation takes places under the auspices of "Richard M. Zhlubb," a thinly disguised Richard M. Nixon, whose presidency began in 1968 and ended scant months after publication of this novel.  

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial