Reading: A Weird Death: The Schwarzkommando and the Symbolic Challenge in Gravity's Rainbow

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A Weird Death: The Schwarzkommando and the Symbolic Challenge in Gravity's Rainbow

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Tiina Käkelä-Puumala

University of Helsinki
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Abstract

Toward the end of Gravity's Rainbow, in a passage closely related to the "scattering" or transformation of Tyrone Slothrop, we find this strange and rigorous maxim: "'the object of life is to make sure you die a weird death. To make sure that however it finds you, it will find you under very weird circumstances. To live that kind of life…. '" (742). Although the maxim is obscure, it clearly conveys an antagonistic stance. Weird death is set against the notion of natural and rationalizable–that is, medically, biologically and conceptually determinable–death. A weird death, like Slothrop's, is indefinable, resisting all attempts to locate it in space (the body) or in time (the moment of death). The elliptical fragment at the end of the passage makes it clear that there is no conception of death without a certain conception of life and the conditions under which it is lived, and thus any attempt to have control over death entails having control over life. So the passage on weird death is political in its absurdity: the escape from rationalization becomes a moment of resistance, resistance not only to any univocal meaning of death but also to control over the transition from life to death.
How to Cite: Käkelä-Puumala, T., (2008). A Weird Death: The Schwarzkommando and the Symbolic Challenge in Gravity's Rainbow. Pynchon Notes. (54-55), pp.195–215. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/pn.36
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Published on 22 Sep 2008.
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