Gravity's Rainbow and The Culture of Childhood

Author: Strother Purdy (Bridgewater, CT)

  • Gravity's Rainbow and The Culture of Childhood


    Gravity's Rainbow and The Culture of Childhood



In skillfully distorting the closing days of the Second World War to make them adumbrate our own closing days, pynchon chose to include civilian victims in his representation, and thereby set himself a problem that bears a certain resemblance to one discussed in the summer of 1941 by SS-Sturmbannfdhrer Eichmann, representative of Reichsfdhrer SS Heinrich Himmler, and SS-Sturmbannfdhrer Hoss, Kommandant von Auschwitz, when they met to set in motion history is greatest mass extermination: What to do about the children? They worried that killing them, like killing the women, would be a load (Belastung) too heavy for even the SS men to support, "rock hard" as they were in their determination to rise to the necessity of carrying through this cruelly severe mission of Massen-Vernichtung. Such psychological impressions (psychische Eindrdcke) were, He felt, ineradicable (unausldsliche). The solution they hit upon was to minimize visibility and proximity, and thereby the psychological impression, by having the victims introduced into a closed room by other victims, and having an SS man drop poison gas in through an opening in the roof. The SS man was then in the elevated and impersonal position of a bombardier. For the moment anyway, his victims were as invisible as those in a city from 10,000 feet, and their destruction as abstractly part of the war effort.

How to Cite:

Purdy, S., (1988) “Gravity's Rainbow and The Culture of Childhood”, Pynchon Notes , 7-23. doi:

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Published on
21 Sep 1988