Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 361
Gravity's Rainbow is a prime example of postmodernism, a literary viewpoint which arose in response to the horrors of World War II such as the Holocaust and the atomic bomb. Postmodernist writers maintain that the old rules for the writing and understanding of literature can no longer be used in the face of such disasters and that traditional ideas about plot, character, and meaning must be swept away in order to face a new age of uncertainty. The prior literary movement, modernism, represented by such authors as T. S. Eliot and James Joyce, which asserted that escape from industrial society into a world of art was possible, is a particular target of the postmodernists. Much of the critical discussion of Gravity's Rainbow is related to postmodernist philosophy.
1. Find a more complete discussion of postmodernism in a literary dictionary. Identify the elements of postmodernism in Gravity's Rainbow.
2. What is gained by Pynchon's method of digression leading to digression? What is lost?
3. What does Pynchon imply by the fact that Enzian and Tchitcherine do not recognize each other when they meet?
4. How do the female characters in Gravity's Rainbow function? If you have read any of Pynchon's other novels, compare the female characters to the women in those works.
5. Discuss Pynchon's use of myths and fairy tales in Gravity's Rainbow.
6. Does Pynchon's frightening suggestion of future death by nuclear rocket still hold value in a post-Cold War age?
7. Discuss the role of movies in the novel. (Some critics have suggested that the rows of squares which mark textual divisions in the novel are reminders of the sprocket holes of a film and that the book is to be experienced like a movie.)
8. Is Slothrop an effective main character or is the villain Weissmann a stronger character?
9. Why was Gravity's Rainbow considered "obscene and unreadable?"
10. Since both the Axis and the Allies are considered evil, is there any focus for good in the book?
11. Considering his concern for the drain on the world's resources by the industrial powers, is Pynchon an environmentalist?
12. Relate Gravity's Rainbow to other World War II novels such as The Naked and the Dead (Mailer, 1948) or The Caine Mutiny (Wouk, 1951).
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