The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Frenesi Gates is among the most fully developed and interesting characters in all of Pynchon’s work. She is seen from the point of view of the third-person narrator and also from the perspectives of her mother, Zoyd, Prairie, and DL as well as the Senior Attentive of the Sisterhood. Totally committed to the feminist film collective with which she is associated, daughter of her radical parents in her devotion to social causes, Frenesi is nevertheless fascinated, attracted, and repelled by Brock Vond and by the kind of authoritarian power he represents. At first, she tries to play games with Vond, then she falls in love with him; finally, she is made to face the extent of her own degradation. Over her protests, Vond gets her to transport the gun that will kill Weed, the professor who is at the heart of the student uprising. Once she has done this, she can place no limit on what she will do, and her life working as an agent for Vond is an inevitable next step. Still, as she is seen with Flash and Justin, she has not become a woman without conscience. She misses Prairie and regrets having left her, although she could see no alternative at the time. When the funds dry up and she is cast out of her work by a change in government policy, she instinctively returns to the reunion of her mother’s clan. There, she discovers something like mercy and some sort of peace.

The other characters are less original and less developed. Prairie is presented as a typical...

(The entire section is 545 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Zoyd Wheeler

Zoyd Wheeler, a former hippie living in a Northern California community called Vineland. He earns a government pension by taking an annual dive through a plate glass restaurant window in front of television cameras to prove that he is mentally afflicted. He tries to look after his daughter, Prairie, but has little control over her or over his own life. He is driven from his home by an invasion of federal and local police who ostensibly are looking for marijuana crops but whose real target is Prairie.

Prairie Wheeler

Prairie Wheeler, the teenage daughter of Zoyd and Frenesi Gates. She is a groupie for a rock band called Billy Barf and the Vomitones, and she works in a New Age pizza parlor in Vineland. Her driving desire is to locate her mother, Frenesi Gates, and to learn why her mother deserted her when Prairie was an infant. Her search takes her to Southern California, where the band has an engagement and where she meets DL Chastain. She is guided by sympathetic women, especially DL, and a number of people who want to protect her from the federal prosecutor, Brock Vond. At a huge reunion in Northern California, she finally meets her mother, and they reach a friendly accommodation.

Frenesi Gates

Frenesi Gates, Prairie’s mother, a member of a radical film collective during the student unrest of the 1960’s and early 1970’s. She met and was fascinated by Brock Vond, who seduced her and turned her into a government agent charged with subverting the student movement on a small college campus. Eventually, she was made to supply the weapon used to kill the faculty member who acted as a guru for the student uprising. Vond spirited her away to a secret...

(The entire section is 714 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Most of the action of Vineland involves the family of Zoyd Wheeler, who lives near the town of Vineland and who collects mental...

(The entire section is 290 words.)