Pynchon and Comparisons Galore

…the smoothly cross-dawning image of an interior whose detail, for a moment breathtakingly, is far in advance of anything she’s seen on the gaming platforms Ziggy and his friends tend to use, flaring beyond the basic video game brown of the time into the full color spectrum of very early morning, polygons finely smoothed to all but continuous curves, the rendering,modeling, and shadows, blending and blur, handled elegantly, even with . . . could you call it genius? Making Final Fantasy X, anyway, look like an Etch A Sketch. A framed lucid dream, it approaches, and wraps Maxine, and strangely without panic she submits.(Pynchon, 76).


This passage occurs towards the middle of chapter seven with the introduction of Deep Archer. It portrays what seems to be Maxine’s reaction to seeing Deep Archer for the first time. Think of this as Maxine entering a new world for the first time. It is important to note how Pynchon uses Maxine to describe Deep Archer. This is not only Maxine’s first time traversing Deep Archer, but also the reader’s. So our first and maybe only glimpse at Deep Archer is through Maxine’s eyes. One can ask, “Does it matter that it is through Maxine that Deep Archer is defined?” Pynchon’s answer could very well be an affirmation. Compared to other characters in Bleeding Edge, Maxine is among the less intellectual when concerning technology, especially in contrast with Lucas, Avi, and Reg. But, that’s not to say that it is a negative quality. In fact, Pynchon’s protagonist achieves relatabilty through her lesser understanding of her time period’s technology. It might be easier for some to understand the way the Maxine is describing Deep Archer.

Focusing on the passage itself, it is evident that Pynchon regularly relies on comparisons. Much like the rest of the novel so far, analogies and juxtaposition of objects or ideals is heavily employed. These comparisons are not only between characters and objects in the novel itself but also references to real world culture. The first sentence starts off with “…the smoothly cross-dawning image of an interior whose detail, for a moment breathtakingly, is far in advance of anything she’s seen on the gaming platforms Ziggy and his friends tend to use…” Already Pynchon sets a baseline for the reader to comprehend the scale of Deep Archer. He contrasts the program with every gaming console that was available at the time. With some research into the reference, one can see that the latest console available to Ziggy was the PS2, a giant leap in technology for video game consoles. Pynchon then leads into yet another comparison “…flaring beyond the basic video game brown of the time into the full color spectrum of very early morning,” This time, comparing, less subtly, the color gap of the contemporary video game and Deep Archer. Along with the next sentence “polygons finely smoothed to all but continuous curves…”, the reader can already imagine the scale of the technology, the variance of colors, and the advanced textures of Deep Archer. To top it off, Pynchon finishes the portrayal with “Making Final Fantasy X, anyway, look like an Etch A Sketch.”, a final comparison, one that is multifaceted. Pynchon isn’t just comparing Deep Archer with Final Fantasy X, he is resembling it to a two dimensional monochrome image drawn by two rotating knobs. Final Fantasy X was a masterpiece for its time, it took a giant leap in three dimensional rendering as well as cinematic directing and voice acting. And to assimilate that with a two dimensional image is to maybe say that Deep Archer is going beyond three dimensions. Pynchon’s form relies heavily on comparisons so often that in this passage alone he utilizes three separate correlations. What does this provide the reader? Perhaps it is a way by which Pynchon presses the reader to step into the role of Maxine. His connections to culture and beyond supplements the reader’s understanding of Maxine’s thoughts to the point that they almost take the place of Maxine herself. This passage is finished off with “A framed lucid dream, it approaches, and wraps Maxine, and strangely without panic she submits.” Now that Pynchon has led us to take on the place of Maxine, he is allowed to urge us to submit to Deep Archer, much like Maxine does.

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4 Responses to Pynchon and Comparisons Galore

  1. cso9 says:

    I think it’s a notable idea you brought up the position of the character in compliance with experiencing DeepArcher for the first time. I would have never thought about it that way, but you do make a good point: someone who is more knowledgeable with technology might have speculated DeepArcher differently. For me, it is at least comforting to know that I am in the same boat as Maxine, as not being entirely up to date on the latest technology. Therefore, I trust her judgement, as well as your claim that it it’s probably easier to interpret it through her eyes.

    I also believe that you are absolutely right about Pynchon incorporating plenty of juxtapositions into his writing. It’s evident that he does this purposefully to create an even more exaggerated understanding. For example, as you had mentioned, Final Fantasy X looks incredibly old school when placed next to DeepArcher, which I think emphasizes the influence and rapid advancement of technology in our society. There is so much more to be interpreted through Pynchon’s writing than simply reading it, as he jam packs it with references and symbolic terminology!

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  2. tspace22 says:

    I really enjoyed your analysis, and in particular your discussion of the reference to Final Fantasy X. Pynchon’s references are extremely well thought out and deliberate, and this reference is no different. As someone who has played Final Fantasy X, this reference (and comparison) stood out to me when I was reading the novel because of the ludicrous nature of the comparison to Final Fantasy X to an Etch A Sketch. As you argue, Final Fantasy X is an extremely groundbreaking game and one of the first to feature voice acting and cinematic cutscenes. Cutscenes in the game no longer resembled ‘video game cutscenes’, they resembled cinematic experiences with artful direction. It is for this reason that the comparison is so profound. If DeepArcher is graphically superior to Final Fantasy X, which can be seen as the cutting edge video game development at the time, it must really be something special.

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  3. useltime says:

    Very nice analysis. I too enjoyed your comparisons and analysis of the different video games and drew attention to how really big a deal this new game actually was graphics. Having never played Final Fantasy I really had no reference in personal experience to tie to this Deep Archer that Maxine was describing. Though as I was reading this part I actually made a note on how I thought the game was described particularly well to a guy who doesn’t have a lot of experience with video games. Through using Maxine to describe the game it almost follows the old expression “write an explanation for this as if you were explaining it to a kindergartener,” while still keeping the interest of video game savvy readers with the mention of Final Fantasy X.

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  4. Quite the perceptive reading that is right on the verge of doing some really interesting work, but I cannot yet quite discern what you are arguing here.

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