Style and Technique

Pynchon’s story is not as stylistically interesting as its later reworking as chapter 3 of V, in which the story is fragmented into eight different segments told from eight different points of view. “Under the Rose,” though, is a polished work of fiction with a number of interesting aspects. Pynchon’s story is told straightforwardly by a third-person narrator, who is limited mostly to Porpentine’s point of view. As a result, the reader shares Porpentine’s thoughts while also regarding his actions from a distance. This narrative technique, traditional enough in modern literature, gives the story its combination of philosophical rumination and slapstick comedy. Even while Porpentine is trying to make sense out of his assignment and the actions of his partner and his enemies, he is engaged in buffoon-like behavior. He bursts into song in public, takes pratfalls, and engages in comic-opera fake assassination attempts. This combination of metaphysical musings and low comedy is typical of Pynchon’s fiction, although Porpentine’s surroundings mark the author’s first use of a historical and foreign setting (whose details he lifted from a copy of Karl Baedecker’s 1899 tourist guide to Egypt).

Also typical of Pynchon’s early fiction is his subtle use of allusion. As in most of Pynchon’s short stories, there are veiled references to T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922). For example, the story opens on a dry, dusty square in...

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