47 pages 1 hour read

Thomas Pynchon


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1963

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Chapter 14-EpilogueChapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 14 Summary: “V. in love”

In July 1913, a young ballerina named Melanie l’Heuremaudit (French for “the cursed hour”) arrives in Paris. She was raised by an abusive father and has fled from her Belgian school. Seeking a job at a cabaret, she is hired to play the lead role in the ballet L’Enlevement des Vierges Chinoises, or “Rape of the Chinese Virgins” (184). Melanie’s handmaids will be played by mechanical robot dancers, and she dreams of being one herself.

Satin and Itague, the cabaret’s owners, discuss their new lead ballerina’s “soul” (185) and her relationship with her father: She seems haunted and inscrutable. That evening, at a “Black Mass” (186), a Satanic ritual, Itague is annoyed that a woman in a heavy veil is burning the skirt of a “defenseless” (187) young girl.

As Melanie prepares for the ballet, the other dancers arrive. One insists that Melanie is “not real” (187), but only a fetish or a pleasure object. In a community of Russian émigrés, the composer Porcepic (Pynchon’s version of Igor Stravinsky) discusses politics and “decadence” (188) with Kholsky, an imposing tailor.

Melanie and the accusatory woman go to a loft in one of Paris’s industrial districts. This woman is “the lady V.” (189), and she is in love with Melanie.