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Gravity's Rainbow is a notoriously unreliable text. The perspectives of the strange narrator and various characters give an account of the novel's events that is clearly problematic in terms of the degree of "reality" that can be ascribed to various episodes: fantasies, hallucinations, and paranoid delusions are often indistinguishable from the events which may cause them or to which they may refer. To an unusual degree, then, the fundamental plot-question-"What happens?"-becomes a point of depa.rt"u!e for a sort of textual metaphysics. Often, arguments about the significance of passages may be upstaged by arguments about the plot itself: what "really" happens and what is illusory? The reader faces the same difficulties that plague the characters: all seek knowledge of, or at least a coherent theory about, the fictional world of which the characters are inhabitants and the reader is a curiously stationed observer. Definitive answers are impossible; Pynchon's work revels in its ambiguities. However, Gravity's Rainbow is spectacular in the vastness of the fictive world it creates and chronicles, prompting a tremendous array of claims about the ways in which it functions. Thus, it seems appropriate to inquire into questions which are as fundamental in Pynchonian metaphysics as in the IJreal" world. Probably the most important question is the one of whether or not ultimate order exists. Is the world of the novel orchestrated, ordered, or structured by some outside-the-System force or basic organizing principle, or is it characterized by randomness, with each event falling into a universal Poisson distribution?


English Language and Literature