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Infinite Jest: 3-49
Transcript of Infinite Jest: 3-49
Timeline as it Stands
Passages to examine closely
Orin's Story 42-49
Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment
Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad
Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar
Year of Glad
The Story of the Medical Attaché
Major Plot Threads at Work
We are introduced to Hal at the end of his story. He cannot perform in an interview with university officials because he, for reasons unknown, is completely unable to communicate. All attempts at communication look like hysteria (3-17). We also learn a great deal about the Incandenza family dynamic, which is extremely important to understanding Hal's character. We learn that when he was 10 or 11 (or perhaps 14), his father, concerned about his son's ability to communicate, pretends to be a professional conversationalist (27-31). This anecdote provides a good primer to Hal's relationship with his father. We also learn a bit about his two brothers, Mario and Orin, and his mother, Avril, or "The Moms." The picture we have of the Incandenzas at this point in the novel is very incomplete, but there are important foundations in this section that will help you understand the story's unfolding and Hal's importance within it.
Hal's interview with university officials goes horribly awry. The reader does not, at this point, know what has caused this state of being for Hal. (3-17)
Important Characters introduced: Hal Incandenza, Charles Tavis (C.T.), Aubrey DeLint, Orin Incandenza, Avril Incandenza ("The Moms") [The last two through Hal's flashback]
Hal's appointment with the "professional conversationalist," who is really his dad (James O. Incandenza) in disguise. Through this conversation, we learn a bit about the Incandenza family dynamic. (27-31)
The Problematic Wardine Section (37-38)
Introduction to Bruce Green and Mildred Bonk (38-39)
Note that these two sections won't seem important for quite some time.
Erdedy waits for his marijuana (17-27)
9 May: A Brief glimpse into Hal, Orin, and Mario's brotherly relationship (32-33)
Hal and Mario talk about "The Moms" and their father's death (39-42)
1 Apr: The medical attaché's story begins (33-37 note that we don't get the date until after the initial introduction to the attaché)
October: Orin's story established, important character-building here (42-49)
The first few pages of a novel always need close examination, and Infinite Jest is no exception. The downside to looking at this bit closely first is that some of it is impossible to understand until you have finished the novel. The beginning of this novel is in almost every way the end of the story. In many ways, the novel attempts to answer the question (sort of) of how Hal got this way.
We learn a lot about Orin in this section, particularly with regard to his problematic familial relationships. Pay special attention to note 2, which establishes an important insight for us as readers. We and the narrator have more conscious awareness of Orin's psyche than he does. How does that affect how we read him? Note also the recurrence of the insect in this section. This time, it is roaches. Strangely, this will be important later.
This section takes up the issue of addiction, which will be a recurring theme throughout the novel. Note how this section chronicles Erdedy's preparation for his order from a third person perspective, but even so, the narrative seems to be focalized through Erdedy's consciousness. This strategy appears throughout the text, Wallace's narrator often picking up the personality and voice of the "protagonist" of the small story being told. Also, notice Erdedy's obsession with the insect in this section. That same obsession comes up again with Orin.
"I can't just sit here watching you think I'm mute while your fake nose points at the floor. And are you hearing me talking, Dad? It speaks. It accepts soda and defines implore and converses with you."
"Praying for just one conversation, amateur or no, that does not end in terror? That does not end like all the others: you staring, me swallowing?"(31)
This one is part theme, part plot thread. This novel confronts addiction on several levels and in several different plot threads. But it begins here, with Erdedy struggling with his marijuana addiction (17-27).
At this point, we don't know why this story is important, but we will soon(ish). For now, pay attention to the way he is characterized, particularly his relationship to entertainment and relaxation, or "unwinding" (33-37). This passage also gives you an idea about the technology of the teleputer and Entertainment cartridges. You will get a deeper understanding of the state of Entertainment as the story develops
"So yo then man what's your story?"
"He thought very broadly of desires and ideas being watched but not acted upon, he thought of impulses being starved of expression and drying out and floating dryly away. . ." (26)
"I am in here."
Steve Erdedy's Section (17-27)
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