47 pages 1 hour read

Thomas Pynchon


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1963

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Chapters 4-6

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 4 Summary: “In Which Esther Gets a Nose Job”

The night after the McClintic Sphere concert, Esther meets Shale Schoenmaker, her cosmetic surgeon and lover. As she rides the bus, she thinks about the “weird canon of twentieth-century metaphysics” (42) associated with Los Angeles and New Age thinking.

The narrative now flashes back in time. In 1917, Schoenmaker is a young recruit in the military. He works as an engineer, repairing fighter planes in World War I. One of the pilots on the base is the dashing Evan Godolphin. Schoenmaker develops romantic feelings toward Evan due to the “feudal-homosexual” (43) relationship between mechanics and pilots. When Godolphin is badly injured in a plane crash, Schoenmaker is a wreck. He is desperate for Godolphin to survive with his handsome looks intact, even asking the surgeons to “take his own bone cartilage” (44) to save Godolphin. Instead, Dr. Halidom injects inert matter into Godolphin’s face; six months later, Godolphin’s condition and face deteriorate. Schoenmaker grows depressed, thinking of himself as an inanimate object, like the tools he uses to fix airplanes. He finally breaks free of this emotional spiral by deciding to “become a doctor” (45). He wants to ensure that beautiful men like Godolphin are not subject to butchers like Halidom.