Literature Study GuidesNeuromancerPart 2 Chapter 5 Summary

Neuromancer | Study Guide

William Gibson

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Neuromancer | Part 2, Chapter 5 : The Shopping Expedition | Summary



After Molly receives medical treatment for her leg from an office labeled "GERALD CHIN, DENTIST," Case discretely shares the name Wintermute with her, written on a paper napkin by Lupus Yonderboy, a member of the Panther Moderns. Molly consults Finn, who tells them Wintermute is the name of an artificial intelligence (AI) owned by the Tessier-Ashpool corporation, a giant company that owns most of Freeside, a massive orbital space station. He also tells them a story about a stolen item he was asked to fence in the past and how Tessier-Ashpool sent an assassin to retrieve the item and kill the thief. Molly shares that she paid the Panther Moderns to retrieve information on a database belonging to Armitage. Case remembers the man whose personality is encoded into the data storage unit they stole. McCoy Pauley had been a cyber cowboy who earned the nickname "Dixie Flatline" by trying to steal data from powerful corporations but pushed his luck and died in the process. Case turns the construct on and talks with it briefly, sketching the job.


At the start of Chapter 5, Molly receives medical treatment from an office labeled "GERALD CHIN, DENTIST," and Case then passes her a note with the name Wintermute on it while she signs him to remain silent. Gibson juxtaposes all of these details to advance core themes of knowledge and fragmentation. In an illicit world, signs cannot say what they mean directly. Criminals must already know Gerald Chin isn't a dentist but rather runs a black market clinic. Lupus Yonderboy is clearly a fake name that gives conflicting signals: Is this a wolf (lupus is Latin for "wolf") or a boy? And what does it mean for someone who met Case in person to be "yonder"? Finally, in a digital world, where data thieves such as Case can access information, it is safer to communicate via disposable napkins and informal hand signals. Anything digital is compromised.

The rest of the chapter demonstrates just that. When Molly and Case visit the Finn, they get information on Wintermute that is the first clue to his identity. He is an AI. He is also the product of a large and exceptionally powerful corporation. Taken together, this information shifts relationships in the novel. Case isn't really working for Armitage. Case is working for an AI, probably one with a forbidden degree of autonomy, and the corporation that created it employs genetically designed assassins to protect its interests. This changes a chapter that is essentially backstory and exposition into something more active. As Molly and Case solve the puzzle of who they are working for, they radically raise the stakes and place themselves in even greater danger. Tessier-Ashpool, the company that owns Wintermute, is so wealthy it practically owns its own space station. Each chapter has raised the scale on which the characters operate. In Chapter 1 Case operated day to day, making minor, immediate deals. By Chapter 5 he is engaged in a scheme that isn't just global: it reaches into space.

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