Forty-Three: Connected with Witches

04.17: Gravity’s Rainbow

In which our discussion of Gravity’s Rainbow takes us into Book Three, episodes three and four…a little journey made with the help of Iron Butterfly.

5 thoughts on “Forty-Three: Connected with Witches

  1. Hello. Just wanted to add something. In chapter four Schnorp mentions “(t)here are no zones but the zone”. This seems to be a reflection of the shahada: the invocation you need to receit when converting to Islam. It starts “(t)here is no god but the God”.

    I’m not exactly sure what this means in the grand scheme of the novel but I will say that in Islam the idea of predestination is an article of faith. Love the show ect.

  2. When I first read the passage about the specter [as Slothrop spells it] I immediately thought of Marx’s Communist Manifesto, to which the first line is “A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre…” and if it were just the name of the phenomenon I might think I was reading too much into it, but only in the previous section does Pynchon call out Marx, for being actually kinda racist, so Marx is a little in the recent memory of the reader.

    Pulling this thread we could convince ourselves of other connections: the discussion in the preceding paragraphs about witches, Slothrop aware of his witch ancestry, then joking that Geli is a witch, witches being people with certain haunting predispositions.

    Then as the sun continues to rise and “the Brockengespenstphanomen is confined to dawn’s slender interface, and soon the shadows have come slinking back to their owners” it made me think of the failure for communism to fully take hold in Europe after Marx’s initial enthusiasm. In a similar way, while there is this temporary lack of control in the Zone after the war, there is a potential for a re-emergence of communism, but whatever might have been attempted turns out to get quashed eventually by the momentum of greater (market?) forces.

    Only other thing that caught me in that section is when Slothrop’s first instinct when he sees his shadow’s specter is to raise an arm, “of course he raises an arm. Isn’t it expected of him?” And that made me think of Slothrop somehow taking after Hitler – which is also a bit of a stretch, except that in the previous section as Slothrop is fleeing Marvy, he trims his mustache in an attempt to disguise himself, and then appears Glimpf who says “You look like Hitler now. Now they’ll really want to kill you!”

    So, yeah, just some rambling amateur analysis there. But it seems to be in the general spirit of paranoia.

  3. I think this “breaking the speed of sound thing” you talked about at the end of your podcast has two main meanings:

    1. From a purely technical standpoint it’s the speed with which the earth rotates at Carcassonne. I wrote a blog post where I explain the math behind that: https://niklasriewald.com/2019/12/22/the-math-behind-gravitys-rainbow-the-speed-with-which-earth-rotates/

    2.) It also ties in with the interpretation of slothrop going through the same stages as a V2 rocket. In Southern France towards the beginning of the book he is “launched”. The V2 rocket had a top speed of 2880 km/h and the sound of speed is only 1235km/h, so of course he would have broken the sound barrier in this process. Now towards the middle of the book he has reached his apex high up over germany. This might also be related to the loss of control you noticed in this chapter. To quote another part of the book:

    “A switch closed, fuel cut off, burning ended. The Rocket was on its own.”

    1. Wow! This is some really cool stuff. I don’t understand it, but I’ll take some serious time with it. Thank you, and thanks for listening!

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