- List of episodes in Gravity's Rainbow
The following is a list of episodes in
Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow.
Part 1: Beyond the Zero
Set in London at the home of Pirate Prentice on Monday, December 18, 1944, the episode begins with Pirate dreaming about the evacuation of London. When he wakes up he manages to save a friend but sees the launch of a
V-2 rocketfrom the Netherlands.
Later on the same day Pirate hosts one of his famous "Banana Breakfasts" before he is called to a rocket crash site to retrieve a message. There is a long flashback at this point to 1914 and the
Eastern Question. This scene transforms into a horrific image of London about to be eaten by a giant Adenoid.
Set at noon on the same day at the headquarters of ACHTUNG we are shown, via a photograph of Lt. Tyrone Slothrop's cubicle, a map of Slothrop's sexual conquests around London.
In the afternoon on the same day on the road back from
Greenwichwhere Pirate was sent to retrieve the message the reader is introduced to Slothrop for the first time. This episode contains many flashbacks to Slothrop's childhood and ancestry.
Set in the evening on the same day, Roger Mexico and Jessica Swanlake are participating in a
séance. Through the visions experienced the reader is introduced to Blicero, the TeutonicGod of death. There is also a flashback to Pirate's tour of service in the Persian Gulf.
Early the next morning Roger and Jessica drive to meet Dr. Pointsman, a Pavlovian scientist. The reader is also shown how Roger and Jessica's relationship began and the how it will end in the form of a character called Jeremy.
Roger and Pointsman chase a shell shocked dog around the scene of a V-2 strike.
Set on the Abreaction Ward of St. Veronica's Hospital, Kevin Spectro discusses the case of Slothrop with Pointsman. The issue is that Slothrop experiences sexual excitement at places where V-2 rockets will land in the future. This is a parallel to the
supersonicimpacts of the V-2 whereby observers would at first only see the rocket and hear it only after it had impacted.
Set on the morning of December 20th, Jessica is woken by a rocket landing and she goes to look out the window. Through her mind's eye the reader is shown flashbacks to Roger explaining complex statistics to Jessica (such as the
Poisson distribution) and then into a conversation between Roger and Pointsman on the correlation between the rocket strikes and Slothrop's erections. The episode is cyclically structured and returns to Jessica standing by the window at its end.
Under the influence of a forced injection of Sodium Amytal in the hospital ward Slothrop hallucinates that he has dropped his mouth harp down a toilet in 1939 and journeys down into the sewers to retrieve it. This hallucination shifts to a vision of a cowboy called Crutchfield the Westwardman preparing for a duel with another called Toro Rojo. This episode also contains a clever play on the semantics of sentence structure in the mysterious phrase "You never did the Kenosha Kid".
Pirate deciphers the message that came out of the rocket. The message is to do with the extraction of Katje Borgesius from the Netherlands.
Set on December 21st, Tyrone Slothrop is being discussed by the staff at The White Visitation. One of these tests is a
projective testinvolving an octopus.
December 22 on the Dover coastline and the discussion of Slothrop continues. The reader is introduced to Brigadier General Pudding who raises concern for Slothrop's wellbeing.
Katje Borgesius psychologically conditions Octopus Grigori for use in the experiment on Slothrop. The narrative then shifts to when Katje was in the Netherlands with Blicero and his
sex slaveGottfried working on a V-2 battery. The narrative moves even further back in time focusing, through a seventeenth century relation of Katje, upon the extinction of the Dodoand colonisation before returning to the present time.
December 23, 1944 and Slothrop is released from hospital where he meets up with an old girlfriend. They retreat to a flat in the
East Endand having become intoxicated on Wine gumsthey have sexual intercourse.
A series of flashbacks from the viewpoint of Jessica and Roger which include carol singing and sexual encounters.
Slothrop has been sent to France while the hospital where he was previously has been destroyed by a V-2 strike. Pointsman imagines himself winning the
Nobel Prizefor unravelling this mystery.
This episode consists of two flashbacks, the first to Berlin around 1930 and the second to Palm Sunday in 1942 where a group of pilots see a vision in the city of
Lübeckwhich proves important in the context of the earlier séance.
Another flashback to 1930s Berlin where Franz Pökler and Leni Pökler are debating the merits of Western science.
Set on Christmas Eve at The White Visitation Pointsman theorises further on Slothrop in a satire on the Nativity story.
Boxing dayat Jessica's sister's flat in London the rockets are discussed in the context of Hansel and Gretel.
Part 2: Un Perm' au Casino Hermann Goering
Set in France at the "
Hermann GoeringCasino" just before Christmas 1944 the conditioning of Octopus Grigori is put into effect and Slothrop rescues Katje from its supposedly deadly clutches.
Slothrop starts to question whether the incident on the beach was as it seems. Octopus Grigori is reunited with his keeper and Katje arranges a midnight rendezvous with Slothrop. As they are engaged in sexual intercourse beneath a tablecloth, Slothrop's clothes and identity papers are stolen. He chases the thief out onto a balcony and into a tree. The thief climbs down the tree and Slothrop climbs up. He sees saw marks in the branches and the tree breaks, throwing him to the ground. On returning to his room (limping) he finds it is now empty of all his possessions.
Slothrop is instructed in the workings of V-2 rockets with particular attention paid to the use of mythological language interspersed with the technical.
Back in England in February at The White Visitation Pointsman reports problems with their investigations owing to Brigadier General Pudding's objections. In the guise of a mythological Teutonic witch, Katje disciplines Pudding by means of a graphic depiction of
In France, Slothrop's education continues, the action now set in March 1945. Slothrop discovers clues to finding out about his psychological conditioning as a child and the link this has to a mysterious plastic called "Imipolex G".
In the Spring of 1945 Slothrop attends an underground party. Blodgett Waxwing confirms that the octopus incident was a set up and Slothrop makes plans to escape to
Slothrop learns of the uses of Imipolex G in rocketry and also hears of Tantivy's death. He then heads for the address given to him in Nice. He is being trailed by a group of secret service agents whom he manages to lose while running errands for an Argentinian anarchist group. He also visits the grave of Laszlo Jamf and receives confirmation that Jamf played a key role in his childhood conditioning, details of which are not revealed until later in the novel. Slothrop's identity is now that of an English war correspondent called Ian Scuffling.
Whitsunday(May 20), 1945, Jessica, Roger, Katje and Pointsman are at the seaside and Poinstman hears voices in his head of delusions of grandeur.
Part 3: In the Zone
Set in May 1945 Slothrop is now in the
Harz Mountainsin Germany. He travels to Nordhausenin search of information about the rocket and discovers the links between his childhood, Jamf and Imipolex G. It transpires that Slothrop has been psychologically conditioned to experience sexual excitement in the presence of the material.
Slothrop is chased by Major Duane Marvy while the narrative further weaves Teutonic myth into the technical language of the rocket.
The reader is introduced to the
Hereroas a background for the Schwarzkommando.
Set on May 28, 1945, Slothrop escapes to Berlin via hot air balloon.
The reader is introduced to Vaslav Tchitcherine, Slothrop's
Slothrop assumes the guise of the superhero Rocketman and heads for Neubabelsberg in pursuit of more information about the rocket.
On July 18, 1945, Slothrop (as Rocketman) recovers a kilogram of
hashishburied below the Berlin White House's window where President Harry Trumanis staying for the Potsdam Conference. Slothrop is intercepted by Tchitcherine who injects him with Sodium Amytal which again leads to another hallucination.
The Argentinian Anarchists have hijacked a German submarine in Northern Germany. While on board they plan a film version of
José Hernandez's Martín Fierrowhich they will film, coincidentally, at the launch site of the "00000" rocket.
Tchitcherine smokes the small amount of hashish he stole from Slothrop while thinking about the information he just gained from Slothrop under the influence of Sodium Amytal.
Slothrop awakes from his drug induced sleep to encounter Margherita Erdmann, whom he brings to sexual climax by
The longest episode in the novel, it begins with Franz Pökler reminiscing on the conception of his daughter and then moves on to several flashbacks of 1920s Berlin. The reader also learns that the "00000" was fired in the Spring of 1945.
In the eastern sector of Berlin in July 1945 Slothrop delivers the remaining hashish to Der Springer. Slothrop and Margherita resume their
Enzian and the Hereros question Horst Achtfaden, an aeronautical engineer.
Slothrop leaves Berlin with Margherita and travels to a town called Bad Karma. Margherita meets her daughter Bianca and Slothrop meets Miklos Thanatz who was present with Blicero before the launch of the "00000".
On board the Anubis Bianca and Slothrop engage in sexual relations.
Margherita is revealed to be an evil avatar of the
Margherita recalls Blicero and the "00000" giving Slothrop yet more information on the rocket and the "Schwarzgerät".
Slothrop is tossed over the side of the Anubis in a storm.
Slothrop is rescued from the sea by Frau Gnahb who puts him back in contact with Der Springer; Gerhardt von Göll. Springer offers to recover the Schwarzgerät for Slothrop at a cost.
Set on July 30, 1945, Slothrop and Klaus Närrisch release Der Springer from Russian captivity.
In Hamburg, Enzian and the Hereros attempt to stop an abortion. Further evidence of international cartels are revealed.
July 31, 1945 and Slothrop is back on board the Anubis. Slothrop discovers the dead body of Bianca on board in the engine room. Slothrop is put ashore at
The reader learns that Brigadier General Pudding has died from E-Coli poisoning. Katje watches a form which instructs her to leave The White Visitation and join The Counterforce.
Katje and Pirate make a tour of hell.
It is August 1945 and Slothrop is trekking across northern Germany. After a satire on Slothrop's puritan ancestors (which mirror Pynchon's own ancestry) he once more encounters Major Marvy.
Slothrop, now disguised as a Russian officer, learns of Marvy's plans to raid the Schwarzkommando encampment. A summary of all available information on the "00000" is given to Andreas Orukumbe.
Chiclitz, Marvy and Tchitcherine prepare to attack the Schwarzkommando.
Set in early August 1945, Slothrop adopts his final identity of Plechazunga - a hero-pig. He escapes from a Russian raid and becomes traveling companions with a pig called Frieda, who leads him to Pökler.
August 3, 1945 and Franz Pökler digresses at length about German cinema.
The reader learns of how baby Slothrop was sold to Jamf for experimentation.
Set on August 5, 1945 - the day of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima - two doctors, Muffage and Spontoon make preparations for the castration of Slothrop to unravel the mystery of his erections. However, at the time when Slothrop is supposed to be abducted, Marvy is wearing the pig suit, and he is mistaken for Slothrop and castrated in his stead.
Tchitcherine observes the filming of the movie version of
Martin Fierroon Lüneberg Heath. Two characters discuss Pointsman's outrage at the bodged castration.
Part 4: The Counterforce
Pirate Prentice flies towards the Harz Mountains. Slothrop recovers his harmonica from a stream while he undergoes a transfiguration where he turns away from his quest to find out about his childhood.
It transpires that Jessica has deserted Roger for Jeremy. The Counterforce consists of Pirate, Katje, Roger, Stephen Dodson-Truck, Osbie Feel, Milton Gloaming and Thomas Gwenhidwy.
The story of Byron The Bulb (a light bulb) is related to the reader.
Katje tells Enzian about Blicero's last days.
Thanatz tells his story of the fire of the "00000".
Slothrop reads about the atomic bombings while the narrative begins to fragment. This episode contains several strange and hallucinatory stories, marking the gradual decline of Slothrop's mental health.
Under a truth serum Tchitcherine tells of the reasons for his hunt for his half brother Enzian. The reason is that he was allowed to by Soviet agents, thereby making him a direct parallel of Slothrop, who is allowed to track the rocket.
The Counterforce speculate on the firing direction of the "00000" while Jessica announces her impending marriage to Jeremy.
Geli Tripping searches for Tchitcherine despite rumours of his death. Gottfriend kneels before Blicero just days before the "00000" is fired, where Blicero asks him a final request.
Enzian and the Hereros prepare to fire rocket "00001", the successor to the Zero.
Tripping and Tchitcherine meet and he is so transfixed by her that he does not see his brother Enzian and misses out on exacting his revenge.
The final episode. As the novel closes, the final fate of many characters is revealed, including Slothrop's final collapse into insanity. It is also suggested that Dr. Jamf never existed. There is extensive discussion on
Tarotsymbolism and the Sephiroth as it relates to the V-2. Ending on the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross. Told in flashback, the "00000" is fired by a maddened Blicero, with Gottfried inside in an act of sexual sacrifice. The end of the novel cuts to a cinema in London which is destroyed by the impact of a rocket.
#cite book |last=Pynchon |first=Thomas |title=Gravity's Rainbow|year=1973
#cite book |last=Weisenburger |first=Steven |title=A Gravity's Rainbow Companion |year=1988 |publisher=University of Georgia Press |id= ISBN 0-8203-1026-3 |
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