72 pages 2 hours read

Thomas Pynchon

Gravity's Rainbow

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1973

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Symbols & Motifs

The Rockets

The V2 rockets used by the Nazis to bomb London are one of the most important symbols in Gravity’s Rainbow. The title refers to the flight path of the rockets, in which they fly high into the air and then arc back down to the Earth when gravity takes control. The rockets have fuel and power enough to reach the upper limits of the atmosphere, representing the human desire to ascend into the heavens and escape the confines of the Earth. However, the way in which gravity inevitably wrests back control of the rockets and drags them back to the ground with devastating effect is a symbolic illustration of the decline in human ambition. At once, the rockets are at the cutting edge of what humanity can achieve. They are a technological frontier that can astound and terrify in equal measure, so much so that many of the characters become religiously obsessed with them. For all their advanced technology, however, the rockets never escape the atmosphere. Rather than bring about transcendence, they only bring about death and suffering. According to the rockets’ symbolism, humanity peaks at the apex of the rockets’ parabolic flight; afterward, humanity and the rockets themselves fall back down in a crushing, destructive manner.