Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On Eschaton

I'm 91% done with Infinite Jest and I'd like to make a rough theory about the end of the novel before I get there and see if my theory has any predictive power. My theory is basically this: that the Eschaton game, somewhere in the middle of the novel, is an allegory for the structure of the novel Infinite Jest, specifically w/r/t the ending. It just so happens that I read Surprised by Hope concurrently with IJ, and in Surprised by Hope the subject of 'eschatology' is addressed. 'Eschatology' is the study of the end of things, finality, death, judgement etc. I was unfamiliar with the term until I read Surprised by Hope, and shortly thereafter I read the 'Eschaton' chapter of IJ. I don't recall whether within the Eschaton chapter there are any references to the root of the word 'Eschaton' or whether the game itself is said to have anything to do with endings, but it's my stance that it likely does. Not just endings in general, but with the end of Infinite Jest

So given this, what can I predict about the end of the novel? Only some rather vague things. But within 'the map' of Eschaton, in this particular run of the game, it doesn't reach a logical conclusion. Presumably previous years of Eschaton games did end orderly, and logically, within the map of the game. But in this run, the end game is approaching within the map of the game, elements are aligning, the end is approaching, and before we get there chaos erupts outside of the map, and prevents the game from ending within the map. The game does abruptly end, but not due to the rules and the parameters of the game. Thus the real elements of the game are left in limbo. All the while Hal is observing this and is dumbstruck, frozen, watching the events occur as though there is something profound about them that he can't pinpoint.

All this leads me to believe that certain narrative elements will be drawing to what seems to be a conclusion within the novel (i.e. within 'the map'), and that Hal will likely transcend the narrative in some meta- way and observe them from 'outside' the parameters of the novel itself. That the narrative elements won't reach what seems to be their inevitable, logical conclusion, but will rather abruptly end due to 'external' forces (i.e. some meta- consideration).

Recall that the beginning of the unraveling of this game of 'Eschaton' was snow falling in real life onto 'the map'. 90% through the novel and snow has just begun to fall on E.T.A. Insane amounts of snow. I had already suspected 'Eschaton' was an allegory for the end of the novel, but the snowfall just triggered that suspicion.

As to Hal transcending and being, or becoming, external to the events of the novel, there are some hints that something along these lines is occuring already. Feverish Don Gately (within 'the map'), is becoming conscious of words that only Hal (or maybe Avril) would know and use. Is Hal the author of the novel Infinite Jest that we are reading, perhaps as a tribute to his father, attempting to create a literary sazmidat? And inserting himself as a God like figure into the narrative? Clearly the language used by the author of Infinite Jest is language that Hal, and perhaps only Hal, would use. Note that the author of the novel we are reading uses phrases that the characters themself use. The author refers to people 'eliminating their map' when referring to suicide or homicide. He uses 'interface' colloquially, as do the characters within the novel. As well as various other phrases and words that only people within the world of Infinite Jest use. And, of course, the author has a massive vocabulary, as does Hal. Also, single, rather than double, quotation marks are used throughout the novel, perhaps to indicate that the entire novel is in double quotes, i.e. DFW quoting Hal, Hal the author of the largely autobiographical Infinite Jest. Recall the end of chapter one, where someone asks Hal "What's your story?" I don't know about any of this exactly; it's all very highly speculative, especially since I'm not done with the novel, but it does seem to make a lot of sense.

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