In Darkness, There’s More That Meets the Eye than Light

“The rest of the screen is claimed by the abyss — far from an absence, it is a darkness pulsing with whatever light was before light was invented.”

(Bleeding Edge, page 75)

The chapter begins with Maxine paying a visit to Vyrva’s to finally see what DeepArcher is all about. She is initially confused about what exactly it is, referring to it as a game, but is corrected by both Justin and his partner, Lucas, that it is not. The two instruct Maxine to keep in mind that it is basically a geek space, imagining a gang of friends “up all night on cold pizza and warm Jolt.” This idea is supported when Justin takes her into “DeepArcher Central,” which is quite exactly parallel to the idea they had described. While the room itself is very high-tech, embellished with large screens, keyboards, monitors, modems, and so forth, DeepArcher is a program that is supposed to be a “virtual sanctuary.” It is a place that those who possess hacker ethics can reside to, to escape from the world, hence the pun on the name. The DeepArcher is a place one can go to, virtually, and get lost in a place that cannot be found simply.

I found this particular excerpt both significant and confusing. Confusing, of course, because it was clear that Pynchon had purposefully included light, symbolically, but it was not starkly evident as to why. Upon further analysis, I will begin with the most simplistic idea that it is metaphorical to DeepArcher’s start-up. Justin and Lucas had joined together to create the program, each contributing their own personal ideals for it. Justin sought to capture light, specifically a California that never was or will be — entirely sunny all of the time. Lucas, on the other hand, sought darkness. He found solace in a place of silence and rain. The figure introduced when DeepArcher is initiated serves as the darkness, dressed in all black and encompassed in a surrounding abyss, while the light is in the background.

With that said, I believe Pynchon purposefully structured this passage so that we could first understand how DeepArcher is a representation of both Justin and Lucas’ personal ideas of light and dark. Once we unpack it to understand that the two come together to create one space, we can analyze why the Archer is placed on the forefront and the “sunlit distances of the surface world” are forced behind. It is important to note that although the surrounding area, the darkness, is an abyss, it is not vague. In fact, the abyss and darkness is essential because I believe it represents the “untouched.” With the world having been so constructed, so shaped, creating the suburbs, cities, towers, and so forth, the untouched is the area that has yet to be paved on. It is the only area left that has not been imprinted on.  That is why the Archer is pointing a bow at it, awaiting whatever technological or other advances are to come, prepared to take on whatever changes it brings. With that said, I interpret the Archer’s expression to be attentive yet unattached because he/she is aware of the potential, but must be unattached to face it because change is inevitable.

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3 Responses to In Darkness, There’s More That Meets the Eye than Light

  1. univerrse says:

    I found your interpretation of the start screen for DeepArcher interesting. I never thought of it as a mixture of Justin and Lucas’ personalities. I only interpreted as a metaphor for its introduction, hence the start screen, of the user to the deep web. I also agree with your interpretation of Justin and Lucas’ personalities especially Lucas’. With his Dotcom startup not turning out as well as Justin I can see why he would look for the darkness in the deep web.


  2. dfw1alskare says:

    I like the way you approach the juxtaposition of light and darkness when it comes to DeepArcher. When I had read this passage my first time, I immediately thought about the first paragraph of the novel, where we are introduced to Maxine lingering on the light on the trees, on the buildings, etc, as she is walking her boys to school. And I think the reason I thought about this is because I perceived DeepArcher to be a peculiar extension of that hopeful rebirth of a city in light–except in a darker, maybe less innocent, manner when it comes to the Deep Web. Entering the Deep Web may come with the knowledge of knowing that once you’re in the abyss, you go deeper and deeper, forgetting what you have already passed through. In the first paragraph when we’re introduced to the generic and hopeful sense of the idea of “light”, Maxine is reminiscing about her failed marriage, about all these things of the past, whereas in DeepArcher you just keep going forward into a darkness “pulsing with whatever light was before light was invented.”


    • danwillisdan says:

      Perhaps (and I think this would be concomitant with the artifice of the Callery pear trees in the opening passage) Pynchon sees light as ‘pavement’, as contrived meaning, or as even as the belief that things only come into existence once they are discovered by the public. By saying the abyss is “pulsing with whatever light was before light was invented”, he is saying that the abyss is a presence, illuminated by eternal light, but yet to exposed to the light of discovery.

      Liked by 1 person

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