Rationalizing Community: Victims, Institutions and Analogies for America in Mason & Dixon



"History is hard to know," Hunter S. Thompson laments, "because of all the hired bullshit" (67). Hired history, Thomas Pynchon laments, rationalizes grand-scale exploitation, explains away mass murder and community annihilation in chronicles sponsored by the powerful to "convince everybody, including themselves," that wholesale victimization "never happened" or "doesn't matter" or is justified (F xxi). '''History is hir'd, or coerc'd,'" argues Ethelmer LeSpark in Mason & Dixon, '''only in Interests that must ever prove base'" (350). Official versions rationalize the horrors of "a history which has brought so appallingly many down, without ever having spoken, or having spoken gone unheard, or having been heard, left unrecorded"; institutional chronicles do not explain enforced preterition, the sanctioned marginalization that victimizes the wordless multitudes of passed-over humanity, so Pynchon takes up the fiction-maker's "duty to redeem these silences" (HEV 49) through Mason & Dixon's resonating voices and analogies. By showing astronomer Charles Mason and surveyor Jeremiah Dixon calculating and cutting that ill-famed colonial interface on behalf of inaccessible European bosses, Pynchon dramatizes how, amid the world-altering idealism of the Enlightenment, imperial capitalism and colonial slavery stilled preterite voices and foreshortened the chances of equality and freedom in America.


How to Cite: Hill, R. R. (2003) “Rationalizing Community: Victims, Institutions and Analogies for America in Mason & Dixon”, Pynchon Notes.(0). doi: