Time and Wolfenstein

“Liquor-store cartons full of personal effects are stacked around haphazardly, and most of the limited floor space is littered with unwashed laundry, Chinese take-out containers and pizza boxes, empty Smirnoff Ice bottles, old copies of Heavy Metal, Maxim, and Anal Teen Nymphos Quarterly, women’s shoe catalogs, SDK discs, game controllers and cartridges for Wolfenstein, DOOM, and others.”

-Bleeding Edge, Page 224

Chapter 20

I decided to focus on this scene because I recall that if Pynchon makes a list, it is usually grounds to pay attention. I was surprised when I couldn’t find anything about this page (224) on the Wiki, assuming who would care about Eric, the man with the foot fetish, anyway? That said, I did some researching of my own.

I first decided to take a look at the reference to Wolfenstein, since I know Pynchon likes to play with referencing video games for higher purposes.

On the Wolfenstein website, (yes, there’s actually a website dedicated solely to the game), the description of the game offers that it is in 1946 during World War II. The Nazi’s have progressed so technologically that the Allies are dwindling. The war machine of the Nazis is called Deathshead, which is named after the German general Willhelm “Deathshead” Strasse, and can be separated to expose “Death’s head.” Ironically, a transformer in the Marvel comic series is also named Death’s Head, serving as a peacekeeper and bounty hunter, but the author stated he had not realized the reference to the Nazis.

The war ends in 1960 with the Allies at a defeat, as the Nazis reign over the world with brutality and coercion. The gamer is initiated as the American War Hero, Captain B.J. Blazkowicz. The website finalizes its description with this impacting conclusion,

“You are Captain B.J. Blazkowicz, the American War Hero. After emerging into this world of darkness, you must launch an impossible counter-offensive against the monstrous Nazi regime. Only you dare stand up against an unstoppable army of Nazi robots and hulking Super Soldiers. Only you can stop Deathshead. Only you can rewrite history.”

I believe Pynchon is making quite a number of jabs here. The most significant one is the idea of a new order. The world comes to darkness and chaos after the German force wins, which is similar to the way the world looks after 9/11. In the game Wolfenstein, the Allies actually lose, and are left with no other choice but to pick themselves up and combat the evil. Similarly, the 9/11 came as so sudden and unexpected, Americans hadn’t believed how or why such a thing could happen to our country. They are left with no other outlet than to accept the consequences, picking up and reassembling what they had thought was their untouchable world. There is also the parallel between Pynchon and the game on the behalf of rewriting history. While the events that play out in Wolfenstein are fictional, there lay historical references revamped to make a “better” story. Thomas Pynchon carries out the same principle in Bleeding Edge, as he takes pieces of history and reassembles them to create a different story, and different meaning. As the gamer in Wolfenstein rewrites history as an American hero, Pynchon rewrites the tragedy of 9/11 as an American author with the ability to reshape it how he pleases. He may essentially rewrite history itself, in this way, because in a number of years, who knows what references will be available in regard to the 9/11 attack?

(I am still interested in the list aspect of Eric’s room, but I, myself, would write a novel on this blog post. So, I will save that research for another day… be on the look out!)

Works Cited

M., Shirley. “Death’s Head.” Comic Vine. CBS Interactive. 2015. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.


Pynchon, Thomas. Bleeding Edge. New York: Penguin, 2013. Print.

“About: 1960.” Wolfenstein: A New Order. ZeniMax Media Inc. 2015. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.


This entry was posted in Bleeding Edge, History, Narrative, Reading Response, Videogames. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Time and Wolfenstein

  1. smaugonthewater says:

    A well written article, but I think there is one thing you’re missing. Wolfenstein A New Order was not released until 2014, so the game Pynchon is most likely referencing is Wolfenstein 3D, an old PC FPS comparable to Doom in gameplay and effect on the gaming world. In this game BJ is a spy who has been captured but Germany has not won the war. This may change the interpretation slightly but I think it is overall a good observation.


  2. shhairah says:

    I enjoy what you had to say about Eric’s room along with highlighting Wolfenstein as an actual game. I also liked that you looked into the name Deathshead and found it incredibly interesting how this name is used in reference to a German man along with the Marvel character. I also thought it was interesting how you brought to light this idea of new order and especially found it interesting as this game was a reference to the new order with WWII while in this novel it’s Pynchon’s reference to 9/11. I think it’s interesting to analyze these two time periods as reflections of one another and how the gravity of both are interconnected.

    Also I think it would be incredibly interesting to hear what else you have to say about the rest of Eric’s room as well.


  3. mightymoss9 says:

    I think you should not only look at the plot and gameplay of doom and Wolfenstein, but the history of the two games as well. Wolfenstein and Doom were games that came out in the early 90s, 92 and 93 respectively, for DOS. DOS is an older operating system, before microsoft windows came around. You would need to know at least basic coding to complete the simplest things on the computer. I feel Pynchon might be saying something about how it has evolved from that to the cartridge versions of the game that appear in Eric’s room. In addition, both Wolfenstein and Doom have been accredited as being some of the most influential games in history. Wolfenstein was the very first FPS created and Doom was a revolutionary player as well. Just about every current generation game pulls some details from those games.


  4. Indeed, a number of people have already mentioned that you could have a bit more careful in your research here, even if your conclusions about Pynchon playing w/ history are right on the money.


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