In Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge, many different moments stood out to me, but the one that I chose to write about was on page 107 to page 108. The line goes:
“Time to seek the advice of an expert. (Maxine says) ‘Ziggy, what is this thing?’
“’Looks like one of those little eight-megabyte flash drives. Like a memory card, only different? IBM makes one, but this is some Asian knockoff.’
”’So there could be files or something stored on this?’”
In this scene, Maxine had just been visited by Martin. Martin is a bit of a mystery to me still, but he seems to show up out of nowhere with useful items. The items are never ordered by Maxine, they seem to just appear when she needs them. This time Martin showed up with a flash drive. At this point in the story, the reader does not know what is on the flash drive; just that it was delivered without request.
The reason that this particular scene stood out to me is because of the vast difference from today’s technology. Bleeding Edge took place in 2001, when technology was not as advanced and items such as flash drives were not as well known. Today, everybody knows what a flash drive is and how to operate it. But in 2001, Maxine felt the need to consult her son in order to find out what this mysterious item was.
These lines seem insignificant when reading the book, something that could easily be passed over. But if you think about it longer, the importance of these lines becomes clear.
First, Pynchon is giving the reader a better idea of the technology of the time and peoples’ relationship with it. Most people, especially younger people, of this day and age take for granted that everyone knows what a flash drive is and how to operate it. But by putting in a few brief lines, Pynchon is forcing the reader to realize that in 2001 flash drives were not standard for everyone. Pynchon uses details throughout his story to center the reader in 2001, but this particular detail seems so different from the world that we currently live in that it stuck out to me.
Second, Pynchon uses this opportunity to subtly inform the reader that Maxine, though she is investigating a high tech company, is not some type of technological genius. She is simply a woman, somewhat out of her depth attempting to solve a fraud case. While Maxine is out of her depth, oddly enough her son is not. Flash drives had first been developed in the 1980s, but were clearly not widely used yet. It seems odd that while Maxine does not know what Martin gave her, Ziggy is able to identify it right away.
This could easily be written off to the popular notion that younger people have an intuitive knowledge of technology. If that is true, then Maxine turning to her son for help would not seem that out of the ordinary. But I think Pynchon writes this, not as a way of saying younger people have an affinity with technology, but as a way of showing that Maxine knows less about technology then maybe the average person would.
Throughout his story, Pynchon writes subtly clues to ground his audiences.