The Anarchist Miracle and Magic in Mason & Dixon

Author: Jeffrey Howard (University of Texas at Austin)

  • The Anarchist Miracle and Magic in Mason & Dixon


    The Anarchist Miracle and Magic in Mason & Dixon



From early in Pynchon's career, the magical and the miraculous have been central themes. In The Crying of Lot 49, Jesus Arrabal defines a miracle as '''another world's intrusion into this one'" (120), a phrase Oedipa Maas echoes when she wonders "[i]f miracles were … intrusions into this world from another, the kiss of cosmic pool balls" (124). Arrabal, an anarchist revolutionary, applies this concept to the spontaneous formation of revolutions, which he idealizes as '''[a]n anarchist miracle'" (120). In "Is It O.K. to Be a Luddite?" Pynchon suggests that the concept of miracle has broader implications within his own oeuvre, aligning himself tentatively with the "Luddite hope of miracle" as embodied in "fictional violations of the laws of nature–of space, time, thermodynamics, and the big one, mortality itself" (41). The concern with miraculous, otherworldly occurrences extends throughout Pynchon's career and culminates in Mason & Dixon. That novel abounds in miraculous events, what the Reverend Wicks Cherrycoke refers to as "Might-it-bes, and If-it-weres, –not to mention What-was-thats" (618), including spiritual or quasispiritual revelations, oracular predictions, disembodied voices, and ghostly, demonic and angelic presences. As Brian McHale puts it, "Like the world of Gravity's Rainbow, with its angels, its voices from beyond, its revenants and cases of demonic possession, the world of Mason and Dixon is all but overrun by interlopers from elsewhere" (MDZ 56).

How to Cite:

Howard, J., (2003) “The Anarchist Miracle and Magic in Mason & Dixon”, Pynchon Notes , 166-184. doi:

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Published on
21 Sep 2003