Color in “Gravity’s Rainbow” (Hayles/Eiser ’85)

“The possibility of co-option is inherent in the way Pynchon constructs his critique. He can create color within his text only by naming it, and he can name it only by classifying it as distinct and identifiable hues. Similarly, we can participate in Pynchon’s creation of color only by decoding his color names, which implies that both reader and author are implicated in reducing the rainbow’s “endless streaming” to the distinct hues of Newton’s spectrum. At the same time, Pynchon’s color coding achieves its force because it utilizes Newton’s rules for color combination and refraction to create precise transformations that connect the color names with such far-reaching themes as racism, the link between the dye and munitions industry, and the effect of synthetic chemicals and drugs upon the fragmented consciousness that they both create and control. As the color names become linked with these thematic concerns, a pervasive ambiguity arises: are Pynchon’s acts of naming colors an escape from routinization, or an extension of ‘Their’ totalizing patterns?”

–N. K. Hayles and Mary Eiser, “Coloring¬†Gravity’s Rainbow,”¬†Pynchon Notes, 16 (Spring, 1985): 3-24.

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