Sunday, November 21, 2004

flushing out Slothrop

While still under the influence of sodium amytal at PISCES, Slothrop imagines himself slithering down a toilet at the Roseland Ballroom in order to escape Malcolm X and a “dark gang of awful Negroes”[2] who are attempting to sodomize him.  However, while he avoids anal penetration at the hands of Malcolm X and his cohorts, Slothrop’s trip down the pipes forces him to face the byproducts of anal expulsion that fill the sewage lines.  Slothrop thus deflects the site of danger from his own “virgin asshole”[3] to the filth produced by the assholes of others—including his Harvard acquaintances and his African-American pursuers.  The racial images that pervade his dream indicate that Slothrop associates the proliferation of shit with the encroachment of social spaces he hopes to maintain as distinct.  However, the more Slothrop endeavors to avoid his drug-induced phantasms, the more he finds himself engulfed in excremental space.  He immerses himself in the realm of filth, and must contend with “toilet paper in his hair and a fuzzy thick dingleberry lodged up inside his right nostril.”[4]  His plunge generates both fears and desires:  the prospect of homosexual activity with the “awful Negroes” repulses and entices him, as we learn when the narrator muses that Slothrop’s vision in the sewage pipes may have arisen out of a latent wish “to be sodomized, unimaginably, by a gigantic black ape.”[5]  Furthermore, Pynchon portrays the blackness, disorder, and vulnerability that Slothrop discovers in the toilet as a potential site of refuge from the even more threatening triad of “Strength, Stability, and Whiteness”[6] that stands for the rocket cartel and its seemingly ubiquitous cohorts, who have initiated Slothrop’s psychological evaluation.  Shit opens a space of narrative chaos in GR that both overwhelms and beckons to Slothrop,[7]  who initially battles the excrementally-infused Other of his vision, and later locates in the chaotic world of blackness tentative possibilities for hope. it all: Scatology and the Postmodern Subject: Tyrone Slothrop's Excremental Encounters in Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. (Thanks to Dave Monroe for posting the link to PYNCHON-L.)