72 pages 2 hours read

Thomas Pynchon

Gravity's Rainbow

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1973

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Part 1

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1 Summary: “Beyond the Zero”

In a short epigraph, the German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun discusses his “belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death” (3).

The novel begins with the description of a German rocket attack on London during World War II. The narrative follows the people in the city as they hear the “screaming” sound of the rocket and begin to evacuate. Despite the rigorous planning, the evacuation procedures are all theater because the rockets cannot be avoided.

The next morning, one of the central figures in the evacuation is revealed to be Captain Geoffrey Prentice, otherwise known as Pirate. At dawn in a small house in London, Pirate wakes up and hears his friend Teddy Bloat. After a night of drinking, Bloat is on the cusp of falling from the gallery. Pirate moves a cot in time to break Bloat’s fall, and Bloat “smiles briefly and goes back to sleep” (5). Pirate has a garden on the roof of the small house. He grows bananas and uses these fruits to make breakfast for other young officers. Another young officer, named Osbie Feel, also lives in the house, and he uses the garden to grow so-called “pharmaceutical plants.