Reading: Imaginary Locales in Pynchon's Vineland


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Imaginary Locales in Pynchon's Vineland


Mark D. Hawthorne

James Madison University
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Many reviewers expressed disappointment when Pynchon broke his long silence with the publication of Vineland (1990), possibly because they expected a novel with the intellectual conundrums of V. or Gravity's Rainbow. This disappointment may even have stemmed from Pynchon's own creation of a canon by his tendency to use characters from one novel in another. But this very tendency–which earlier seemed to exclude The Crying of Lot 49 from the canon – helps to establish the centrality of Vineland. In pointing out that Pynchon seems to have been "less concerned with [Frenesi's] motives or feelings than … treating her as an allegory," Edward Mendelson indicates that Pynchon may have violated his own rules for writing by starting, not with character, but with an abstraction. On the contrary, the locales of Vineland, whether the settings for past events or present action, provide keys to character development and thematic content. When Pynchon uses actual places in Vineland, he tends to leave them vague, usually mere names, as in the cases of San Francisco, Oklahoma City and Columbus, Ohio; but when he creates completely imaginary locales, he includes symbolic descriptions that give them thematic, satiric or political depth.
How to Cite: Hawthorne, M.D., (1992). Imaginary Locales in Pynchon's Vineland. Pynchon Notes. (30-31), pp.77–90. DOI:
Published on 22 Sep 1992.
Peer Reviewed


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