Unreadable Stares: Imperial Narratives and the Colonial Gaze in Gravity's Rainbow



The colonial situation–that is, the relation, especially the power dynamics, between the colonizer and the colonized–plays an important part in much of Pynchon's writing. In the early short story "Mortality and Mercy in Vienna," an Ojibwa Indian, brought like a prize of conquest to Washington, DC, erupts into a traditional homicidal psychosis of his tribe, exposing as empty and powerless the capital-crowd cocktail-party conversation which seeks to define and control him. In V., Foppl's siege party seeks to conjure up the ecstasy of power associated with von Trotha's 1904 genocidal campaign against the Hereros; and British explorer Hugh Godolphin, like Conrad's Marlow, recognizes the connection between the process of mapping and naming unknown spaces and the imperial desire to know and thus control the world. "A Journey into the Mind of Watts" and Vineland both suggest that potentially dissident sections of the United States are metaphorical third-world countries and are brought under control through imperial processes. And, of course, Mason & Dixon focuses on the ways institutionalized ideologies, epistemologies and discourses seek to possess a continent and control its people.


How to Cite: L. McLaughlin, R. (2002) “Unreadable Stares: Imperial Narratives and the Colonial Gaze in Gravity's Rainbow”, Pynchon Notes.(0). doi: