Literature Study GuidesGravitys RainbowPart 3 Episodes 26 29 Summary

Gravity's Rainbow | Study Guide

Thomas Pynchon

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Gravity's Rainbow | Part 3, Episodes 26–29 : In the Zone | Summary



Part 3, Episode 26

Major Marvy thinks Slothrop is a Russian officer. He generously offers him "some o' Duane Marvy's Atomic Chili." He tells Slothrop a "buncha 'suckers ... hijacked Der Springer" from Peenemünde. He is referring to Slothrop, Otto, and Närrisch's raid (Part 3, Episode 20).

Marvy is accompanied by his friend Clayton "Bloody" Chiclitz. Marvy is selling contraband furs and hatching other schemes. He thinks "there's a great future in these V-weapons." Marvy, Chiclitz, and Slothrop ride out to an A4 rocket battery. Slothrop finds "the Schwarzkommando mandala: KEZVH." This is the mystical symbol the Zone-Hereros made from the initials of the five stages of launching the V-2 rocket.

Marvy says Slothrop's "comrades" are going to attack the Schwarzkommando at midnight. He thinks Slothrop is in the "Soviet CIC," the Soviet counterintelligence corps. Slothrop plays up Marvy's suspicions. He says it is very important to him to "gather certain information" about the Schwarzkommando before the midnight raid. Marvy gives him directions to their location and a ride back to town. Slothrop accepts the ride, thinking to himself about getting revenge on Marvy. "Next time it won't be any custard pie," he swears.

Slothrop goes looking for the Schwarzkommando. He wonders why he hasn't thought about "Imipolex G, all that Jamf a-and that S-Gerät" in a long time. He starts to think about them again when he is jumped by the Schwarzkommando. Enzian is not with them. Slothrop tells Andreas Orukambe about the planned midnight attack. Over dinner with Slothrop, the Schwarzkommando discuss whether to flee. Andreas says, "We have to go where we go ... Where Mukuru [a Herero god] wants us to go." Slothrop tells them what he knows about the S-Gerät, Greta Erdmann, "the Heath, the gasoline works, the name Blicero," and Imipolex G. In return Andreas explains the spiritual significance of the five stages of the rocket launch. They represent "birth, soul, fire, building," and "the pen where we kept the sacred cattle." Slothrop hopes the mandala will protect the Hereros that night, "a spell against Marvy tonight, against Tchitcherine."

Part 3, Episode 27

Tchitcherine has captured and interrogated Närrisch, who tried "to go out [cowboy movie star] Audie Murphy style." That is, Närrisch tried to go out shooting. However, he was overcome by Tchitcherine's men. Närrisch gave Tchitcherine significant details about the 00000 rocket, including that "there was a radio link from the ground to the S-Gerät but not the other way round." There was also "a special oxygen line [tube]" in the 00000 rocket. Weissmann (Blicero) was in charge of coordinating the S-Gerät project and he "also commanded the battery that fired Rocket 00000." There was also "a load inside near vane 3 that complicated roll and yaw control."

Tchitcherine is with Marvy and Chiclitz. They have just attacked the Schwarzkommando compound, but the Hereros had already fled. Tchitcherine continues puzzling over new leads. He wonders, "Who's the mysterious Soviet intelligence agent that Marvy talked to?" (This was Slothrop, wearing Tchitcherine's uniform.)

Marvy complains about the pressure he is under. He has "General Electric breathin' over [his] shoulder," and "Standard Awl" (Oil) as well. The oil companies are eager to get the rocket technology. Marvy explains the complex history of General Electric's interest in the project. According to Marvy, it goes back to FDR's advisor and former GE president Gerald Swope. "A Jew," Chiclitz helpfully points out.

Marvy and Chiclitz—"these two fools"—spin out paranoid, anti-Semitic theories. Meanwhile Tchitcherine tries to get a grip on the situation. In a kind of vision or hallucination, "a very large white Finger" looms out of the sky at Tchitcherine. The finger points to "A Rocket cartel. A structure cutting across every agency ... that ever touched it."

Within the borderless Zone, Tchitcherine thinks, "a State begins to take form in the stateless German night." It is widespread and universal, like "the Church of Rome." It is "the Rocketstate." Tchitcherine reflects on how everyone seems to be part of this state except himself and his brother Enzian. At episode's end he is thinking about how crazy and dangerous Marvy is.

Part 3, Episode 28

Slothrop is on his long walk to Cuxhaven, where he hopes to get discharge papers. The summer is ending, "in deceleration." Slothrop finds "shapes keep repeating for him." The shape he sees most is "the stairstep gables that front so many of these ancient north-German buildings." The narrator points out the similarity between this shape and the mathematical calculation of a cannonball's flight. Mathematical analysis breaks the curve of flight into stairstep segments.

Slothrop finds himself in a "coastal town, near Wismar," Germany. One night as he sleeps, children "surround [him] and tell him the story of Plechazunga, the Pig-Hero." Plechazunga saved their village from a Viking raid "sometime back in the 10th century." The town holds a yearly festival in honor of the Pig-Hero.

This year the town has no one to play the role of Pig-Hero, and the festival is the next day. The townspeople prevail on Slothrop and he agrees. He wears a plush pig costume in "pink, blue, yellow, bright sour colors."

There are fireworks, and Slothrop is deliberately singed with gunpowder in his role as Pig-Hero. He speaks his Pig-Hero line: "I am the wrath of Donar—and this day you shall be my anvil!" After all kinds of hijinks, the festival breaks up and people huddle in "clumps of three and four." They are doing black-market trading, and for some reason this makes Slothrop nervous. The police arrive and start busting up the activity. Soon the police have "Russian reinforcements."

A girl tells Slothrop, "There's a warrant out for you." She adds, "The Russians found your uniform. They think you're a deserter." Now Slothrop is stuck with the pig costume, his other clothes confiscated. He goes home with the girl, who is "about seventeen." She tells Slothrop she comes from a long line of printers with "German Wobbly" traditions. ("Wobbly" is a slang term for the Industrial Workers of the World, an anarchist union at its peak in the early part of the 20th century.) Given their political leanings, the printers "didn't go along with Hitler."

Their tryst is broken up. The police are going "house to house, looking for their deserter." Still in his pig costume, Slothrop lets the girl show him a way out of town.

Days pass, and Slothrop "keeps to open country, sleeping when he's too tired to walk." Slothrop comes upon a female pig, and they become traveling companions. After much walking "they enter a slow-withering city. ... The sign over the city gate ... reads ZWÖLFKINDER." This is the children's resort Franz Pökler brought his daughter to year after year.

Pökler is there, happy to be reunited with the female pig, Frieda, who is his pet. He is "living in the basement of the town hall."

They talk, and Slothrop recognizes the name Pökler. Pökler gets nervous and gets his gun out. But Slothrop tells him about "the Zürich information with Pökler's name on it, [and] the Russian-American-Herero search for the S-Gerät." Pökler promises to tell Slothrop about Imipolex G, but he first tells Slothrop "something of his Ilse and her summer returns." This reminds Slothrop of Bianca and her "dead flesh." He considers they were both conceived via Greta Erdmann's role in the Alpdrücken film. He wonders, "How could they not be the same child?"

Part 3, Episode 29

That same evening Slothrop gets some information about Jamf from Pökler. As a chemistry professor, Jamf increasingly preached the virtues of moving beyond organic chemistry. He told them to "move beyond life, toward the inorganic." But in fact, Jamf never did research in inorganic chemistry himself. "He stayed with C—H," the covalent bond of carbon and hydrogen. Then Jamf left Germany for the United States. There he fell "under the sinister influence of Lyle Bland," Slothrop's so-called uncle.


The solidification of the Zone intensifies in Tchitcherine's vision in Part 3, Episode 27, as "a State begins to take form in the stateless German night." Tchitcherine sees the Zone not as splitting up into separate powers, but solidifying into one universal state, "the Rocketstate." What causes Tchitcherine to notice these phenomena is "a very large white Finger, addressing him." This finger parallels an image in Part 1, Episode 4. On the gravestone of Slothrop's ancestor Constant Slothrop, "the hand of God emerges from a cloud." Later in Part 1, Episode 4, Slothrop concurs this is how fate does intervene in human affairs: "Yes the great bright hand reaching out of the cloud." Here in the Zone the hand—or finger, rather—does not belong to God but to "the Rocketstate." (This Rocketstate is not the same as the apparently similar Raketen-Stadt, which is Slothrop's futuristic Rocket City.) The Rocketstate has the potential to take over not just the Zone, but the world, like "the Church of Rome."

In Part 3, Episode 26, Slothrop has a fleeting thought about Jamf and the Schwarzgerät, which is that he hasn't thought about them in a while. Pynchon cuts off these reflections by having the Schwarzkommando accost Slothrop right then. The incident illustrates the slowness with which things happen in Gravity's Rainbow. Major shifts in emotion and motivation do not happen in an abrupt, "one and done" way. In Part 3, Episode 18, Slothrop feels distant from his days of "rocket dowsing." That development drains away some of the motivation for investigating Jamf and the Schwarzgerät. In Part 3, Episode 26, Slothrop notices how seldom he's thinking about them. In Part 4, Episode 1, Slothrop gives up on the "primal dream" of understanding Jamf and the Schwarzgerät. In place of a punctual event, the sprawling Gravity's Rainbow gives readers echoes and resonances across many pages.

In Part 3, Episode 28, Slothrop takes on yet another identity, the Pig-Hero of Wismar. The novel has already prepared the reader to accept pigs as the emblem of the preterite, the unsaved. William Slothrop worked out his heretical ideas about preterition while he raised pigs on the family farm. In William's retelling, the Bible's Gadarene swine, like Ludwig's lemmings, are preterite creatures who rush together to their doom. Thus, as Pig-Hero, Slothrop is a hero of the preterite. He also experiences great creaturely comfort while in his pig identity, for a while. In Wismar he enjoys "a peaceful, drunken day, full of music ... frying onions, spilled beer and fresh fish." On the road, he enjoys the company of Pökler's pet pig. He also has a moment that unites him with his Slothrop family heritage of turning trees into paper. He sleeps with a nameless girl in Wismar, who tells him her family were printers, and probably anarchist printers at that. Thus his Slothrop family dedication to "shit, money, and the word" seems transformed into a more saintly devotion to only "the word." Her story "touches Slothrop's own Puritan hopes for the Word, the Word made printer's ink."

The brief Part 3, Episode 29 provides some puzzling background for the power of Imipolex G, the plastic invented by Jamf. Readers see various characters swooning over Imipolex G. Slothrop has an early sense memory of its smell. Margherita Erdmann finds Imipolex G more erotic than any other material. In Part 3, Episode 29, Jamf is shown urging his students to "move beyond life, toward the inorganic." But as Pökler notes, Jamf "stayed with C—H," the covalent bond of carbon and hydrogen. As a polymer, Imipolex G would also have had covalent bonds. This does not explain Jamf's stated preference for inorganic chemistry in his lectures to his students. But it perhaps adds to the allure of Imipolex G to see it as alive. It is "the first plastic that is actually erectile," as noted in Part 4, Episode 6.

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