47 pages 1 hour read

Thomas Pynchon


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1963

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Character Analysis

Benny Profane

One of the novel’s protagonists, Profane is a young American newly discharged from the navy and lacking direction in life. Often compared to a yo-yo, he bounces back and forth along the East Coast without purpose or goal. Profane’s main characteristic is inherent juvenility: After the navy, he abandons adult responsibilities in favor of hedonistic partying and womanizing, leading him straight to the similarly minded Whole Sick Crew. The childish, drunken Profane is unmoored and alienated from society. Like other characters, he finds himself Existing at the End of History after the horrors of World War II erase any possibility of meaning from the world.

Profane hates himself and his wantonly decadent lifestyle. When he is not comparing himself to a yoyo, he refers to himself as a schlemiel—a Yiddish word for an incompetent person, a fool, and the butt of a joke. This adds pathos to our understanding of this character, who does not believe he deserves a better life or a loving partner, and so embraces a fatalistic, depressive alcohol addiction and judges any woman who shows him affection as demonstrating poor taste.

Profane also embodies the theme of The Animate and the Inanimate, as he identifies less and less with the human, as he befriends first the sewer

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