47 pages 1 hour read

Thomas Pynchon


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1963

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Chapters 7-10

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 7 Summary: “She hangs on the western wall”

Stencil is interested in Dudley Eigenvalue, a dentist who practices “psychodontia” (68), a combination of dentistry and psychoanalysis. Stencil, however, is increasingly certain that “a set of false dentures, each tooth a different precious metal” (68), that Eigenvalue owns may have belonged to V. Eigenvalue is unenthused by Stencil’s search for conspiracies, but nonetheless describes an art heist that took place in Florence, Italy, at the turn of the 20th century. 

The narrative shifts to 1899. Evan, still a young man, arrives in Florence to look for his father Hugh, a British explorer who disappeared after leaving his son a letter containing the word “Vheissu” (70). Evan does not know the meaning of this word but wonders whether his father’s urgent letter may be related to a recent Antarctica expedition.

Cesare, Mantissa, and the Gaucho discuss their plan to steal a painting by Botticelli. The Gaucho is not impressed by the idea of hiding the painting in a Judas tree to sneak it out of the museum. He is “a man of action” (72) and prefers a bolder strategy, as preached by the Florentine philosopher Machiavelli. In the past, the Gaucho was involved in an uprising in Venezuela and suggests using a tactic from that event—perhaps throwing “a small bomb” (74) into the museum and then shooting anyone who tries to stop them from stealing the painting.