Reading: Bending the Parabola, Breaking the Circle: The Idea of a Cusp in Gravity's Rainbow

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Bending the Parabola, Breaking the Circle: The Idea of a Cusp in Gravity's Rainbow

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Robert L. Robertson

Drury University
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Abstract

Among the images from mathematics appearing throughout Gravity's Rainbow, two particular curves dominate. One, of course, is the titular parabola, which, as Steven Weisenburger points out, symbolizes "disease, dementia, and destruction" (10). The second is the circle. Weisenburger observes that "drinking games and dances move in circles; the Herero villages used to be arranged mandala-like; and in every episode are windmills, buttons, windows, eyes, Ferris wheels, roulette wheels, rocket insignia, and other cast-down indexes of the novel's grand cycling" (11); and "Gravity's Rainbow is not arch-shaped, as is commonly supposed. It is plotted like a mandala" (9). The book's circular structure becomes readily apparent in the last episode, when the descent of the rocket toward the movie theater seems to reflect the "screaming […] across the sky" (GR 3) that begins the novel.
How to Cite: Robertson, R.L., (2003). Bending the Parabola, Breaking the Circle: The Idea of a Cusp in Gravity's Rainbow. Pynchon Notes. (52-53), pp.100–105. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/pn.55
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Published on 22 Sep 2003.
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