Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
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The Inficratic Oath: first, post no spoilers. Limit your I.J. discussion to only those events that take place on or before the page 981 (100%).

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 Post subject: Hamlet connection thus far! First timer here!
PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 9:42 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 6:43 am
Posts: 6
First time reader so I have no clue what will happen next so if you have read b4, please refrain from giving anything away!

The guides recommended brushing up on Hamlet. I am lazy so I rented the Mel Gibson movie:-). Sort of a TP move by me I know!

I am wondering which character you all think is most similar to Hamlet thus far in IJ. At first I thought it was Hal now I am leaning towards Orin. Maybe Mario with his seduction by Millicrent Kent? Maybe a bit of all three? I am all over the place I know.

Himself is the father? If that is the case it makes me wonder if his death was truly a suicide.

Avril is the mother?

Joell is Ophelia? No clue.

Just wondering what you first timers think? Maybe the story is completely different because it is too early to know. We don't have any spirits...yet except maybe the face in the floor!?!? Anyways, please your thoughts but no spoilers!

 Post subject: Re: Hamlet connection thus far! First timer here!
PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2009 11:22 pm 

Joined: Sun Jun 28, 2009 10:06 pm
Posts: 32
C.T. pretty obviously has some basis in Claudius, though what will come of that later in the story I'm not sure.

I feel like the Hamlet character type is spread amongst a lot of different characters and not just one identifies as him. So many of IJ's characters are struck with inaction. I'm not sure how much any one character is meant to be identified with a character from Hamlet. The motifs taken from the play seem more important: inaction, a dysfunctional family, and the overwhelming presence of a dead father. Still, I'd like to hear theories on how particular characters may be based off of particular characters in Hamlet, and I wouldn't be surprised if we saw characters develop more into the roles of the play's characters later in the story.

The references to Yorick are interesting. The portion of Hamlet that IJ takes its title from is heavily meditative on the inevitability of death. Yorick was a jester, a man who lived his life with the purpose of entertaining others and then died, suggesting the ultimate worthlessness of his entertainment. By analogy, DFW seems to be suggesting that J.O.I.'s dedication to his films (some produced by "Poor Yorick Entertainment") was ultimately meaningless. Unlike Hamlet, however, who seemed convinced of the meaninglessness of everything in the contemplation of death, IJ as a whole seems to be a bit more optimistic about actually finding meaning. From what I can tell, DFW is only using his references to Hamlet to condemn attempts at finding meaning through individual achievement or activity; some purpose might be found elsewhere, with others.

One last thing: I noticed that the Wardine section played out similarly to Hamlet. Wardine's father is dead, and his brother, Roy Tony, is now with Wardine's mother. Roy Tony didn't kill Wardine's father, but he did kill Columbus Epps, apparently because of a fight over Wardine's mother. I'm not sure what to make of this, and it hasn't come up since, but I guess it's worth noting.

 Post subject: Re: Hamlet connection thus far! First timer here!
PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2009 7:19 am 

Joined: Thu Jul 16, 2009 9:58 am
Posts: 7
I love Hamlet and part of the attraction of reading IJ was the promised parallels. What hooked me on the idea of reading, after a friend had recommended it some time ago, was Kottke's post on infsum (I think it was) where he says there's a reason the first words of IJ are "I am" and the first words of Hamlet are "Who's there?" Right up my alley, thought I.

I haven't (as of > pg 550) seen very many thus far, Hamlet parallels. A small dead bird drops into the pool with Orin, and "there is special providence in the fall of a sparrow," sez P.H. to Horatio, but that's been about it, really, other than broad-brush themes.

The political undertones seem to square with Hamlet so far (that is, are consonant with, not directly riffing off): Fortinbras is coming to take over Denmark; the wheelchaired Quebecois are trying to give the Concavity (er, Convexity) back to the U.S.; and both seem sort of tangential until (w/r/t Hamlet) Fortinbras' army shows up at the end. It makes me think the redemisement/separatist thing is going to be huger than we (I guess I, I shouldn't speak for anybody else) think.

Given his name, the giant spectre of his dead father and his penchant for getting high and taking extreme measures to try and be sure nobody notices, I can't help but think Hal is P.H. (w/r/t getting high, I guess I see that as a parallel to Hamlet's faux "antic disposition"). Given that there are no monarchies anywhere, I suppose it would be hard to have a parallel with brother moving to take over before the heir becomes of age -- I don't think anyone believes Hal was in line to become headmaster of E.T.A. -- but there's that, of course, uncle taking over for dad.

The problem is that Hal doesn't have an Ophelia or a Horatio, though there are several candidates for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, I suppose. Through 550 I don't see how anyone but Joelle could be Ophelia, but she's late of a relationship with Orin, not Hal; I suppose Orin could be Horatio, but Mario seems more likely, but not a perfect fit. The other big problem is that all of this ignores Ennet House, which obviously we're not supposed to. Is Don G. Hamlet, in his way, somehow? "Randy Lenz" and "Geoffrey Day" (not Geoff) sound a little like R & G... I dunno.

And Polonius! Sounds like Pemulis. But the Peemster is hardly the headmaster's right hand man nor a dottering self important dolt slow on the uptake.

I'm absolutely loving the novel despite there so far not being much in the way of Hamlet in it. If I've missed anything so far I'd love to hear it, but maybe I haven't.

 Post subject: Re: Hamlet connection thus far! First timer here!
PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2009 8:15 am 

Joined: Mon Jul 13, 2009 1:11 pm
Posts: 91
Thank you for the Randy L. and Geoff D. as possible Rosencrantz and Guildenstern connection. Hadn't considered that. And, yes, I see Gately as a sort of Hamlet figure. As far as connections to Hamlet (or Henry IV/V, MacBeth, Ulysses, etc), I think it is less about plunking characters into exact parallel relationships and more about reconsidering certain themes at issue in Hamlet in light of the situations in IJ, including all the issues of remaining able to communicate and make connections with people in the heavily mediated pomo/metafic/irony-laden/multimedia world of late 20th/early 21st century. Hamlet was obsessed with questions of certainty, of action vs. inaction (that horrid intro line to Olivier's otherwise great film of the play: "this is the story of a man who could not make up his mind"), of madnesses vs. sanity or "seeming" vs. "being," and we see various re-playings of these questions in figures like Hal or Gately. I mean, I love "Hamlet," but it is so part of our cultural fabric that it sometimes is hard to keep its treatment of some themes from seeming abstract, unrelated to our plebian existence. DFW seems to want to be able to look at how we are confronted with this stuff in real ways as we try to live in the world of today, whether in the extreme forms of high level sports or bottomed-out addiction/recovery or in the wonderful human little daily negotiations we make with our own obsessions, wants to help hold our hair out of our face when our own versions of those obsessions leave us feeling like puking in the ball bucket.

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