Reading: Ritual Reluctance: The Poetics of Discontinuity in Gravity's Rainbow


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Ritual Reluctance: The Poetics of Discontinuity in Gravity's Rainbow


James Perrin Warren

Washington and Lee University
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In The Crying of Lot 49. as Oedipa watches The Courier's Tragedy. the narrator explains that in Act IV of the play "a new mode of expression takes over. It can only be called a kind of ritual reluctance." The narrative discourse of Gravity's Rainbow enacts. on an epic scale, precisely this "ritual reluctance," and it does so, at least in part, in order to extend the possibilities of narrative language for representing non-temporal, non-causal, non-continuous aspects of hunan reality. The twin verbal chords of "continuity" and "discontinuity" are struck repeatedly in Gravity's Rainbow. beginning with the epigraph to "Beyond the Zero": "Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation. Everything science has taught me, and continues to teach me, strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death." Lance Ozier has treated the figural calculus of continuity, and several critics have explicitly or implicitly treated the question of continuity in discussing Pynchon's cinematic narrative techniques. But while these various critical studies suggest the complicated terrain of the terms "continuity" and "discontinuity" in the novel, they do not explain how or why Pynchon focuses so much energy on the concepts of narrative continuity and discontinuity. Nor do they explain how narrative continuity and discontinuity relate to Pynchon's figurative uses of the terms "continuity" and "discontinuity" in the text. These are the twin objects of this essay.
How to Cite: Perrin Warren, J., (1986). Ritual Reluctance: The Poetics of Discontinuity in Gravity's Rainbow. Pynchon Notes. (18-19), pp.55–65. DOI:
Published on 22 Sep 1986.
Peer Reviewed


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