Infinite Summer

Formed in the summer of 2009 to read David Foster Wallace's masterwork "Infinite Jest".
It is currently Wed Dec 13, 2017 6:13 am

All times are UTC - 8 hours [ DST ]


Forum rules


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%).



Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 14 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next
Author Message
 Post subject: The Labors of Don Gately
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 9:24 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2009 1:34 pm
Posts: 24
OK, someone else in this forum - I can't find the reference now - noticed that in one of the Steeply/Marathe passages, there is a reference to the constellation Hercules, who has a square head. Of course, our code hero, Don Gately, also has a square head. This got me thinking harder, and then I found this (here: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/Herakles/labors.html

Quote:
The goddess Hera, determined to make trouble for Hercules, made him lose his mind. In a confused and angry state, he killed his own wife and children.

When he awakened from his "temporary insanity," Hercules was shocked and upset by what he'd done. He prayed to the god Apollo for guidance, and the god's oracle told him he would have to serve Eurystheus, the king of Tiryns and Mycenae, for twelve years, in punishment for the murders.

As part of his sentence, Hercules had to perform twelve Labors, feats so difficult that they seemed impossible. Fortunately, Hercules had the help of Hermes and Athena, sympathetic deities who showed up when he really needed help. By the end of these Labors, Hercules was, without a doubt, Greece's greatest hero.

His struggles made Hercules the perfect embodiment of an idea the Greeks called pathos, the experience of virtuous struggle and suffering which would lead to fame and, in Hercules' case, immortality.



So, the parallels here are huge -

1) As an addict, you lose your mind / go crazy and do stupid stuff.
2) The 12 labors are analagous to the 12 steps of AA - "Feats so difficult they seemed impossible" - this is very much in line with the philosophy of AA - that you could never do this yourself
3) Gately has to clean out the "Aegean stables" - he has to clean out the bathroom in a homeless shelter, which is about the lowest status work you could do in American society.

I haven't read through all the 12 labors of Hercules, but maybe there are more parallels in there... This book is absolutely mindblowing in it's referential scope.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: The Labors of Don Gately
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 10:08 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 1:35 pm
Posts: 25
mjdemo wrote:
3) Gately has to clean out the "Aegean stables" - he has to clean out the bathroom in a homeless shelter, which is about the lowest status work you could do in American society.

I haven't read through all the 12 labors of Hercules, but maybe there are more parallels in there... This book is absolutely mindblowing in it's referential scope.



Nice catch!

_________________
Forget your troubles, c'mon, get happy...
-Leland Palmer


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: The Labors of Don Gately
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 10:58 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Tue Jul 07, 2009 6:47 am
Posts: 63
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Interesting! This is what Wikipedia says about Hera:

Quote:
Hera may bear a pomegranate in her hand, emblem of fertile blood and death and a substitute for the narcotic capsule of the opium poppy.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: The Labors of Don Gately
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 11:07 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2009 1:34 pm
Posts: 24
Great stuff. I think it's pretty clear that DG is the character who is supposed to embody the opposite of all the stuff that gets satirized in the novel. He puts up with pain and suffering without resorting to escapism, into either sex or drugs or just tuning out. He is able to find nobility in his dedicated service to others. And he is super big and strong, like Hercules.

I think it's really important for a novel like this to be for something, not just satirizing all the meaningless crap in modern life. Interesting that DFW refers us back to the ideals of the ancient Greeks for moral guidance in our superficial modern world.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: The Labors of Don Gately
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 11:52 am 
Offline

Joined: Tue Jul 21, 2009 8:48 am
Posts: 61
mjdemo.... an excellent analogy between Hercules and Don Gately. While Hercules had the assistance of Athena and Hermes, Gately has Pat Montesian and, in a different sense, Joelle van Dyne. His struggle to redeem his life through simply putting his head down and pressing forward in the hope that things will improve has made him my favorite character in Wallace's writings. Hal Incandenza, to me at least, pales in comparison to Gately as a human being. It's certainly no accident that Wallace places Ennet House and Gately and the bottom of the hill and Hal and the Enfield Tennis Academy at the bottom though each is headed in the opposit direction.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: The Labors of Don Gately
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 7:33 pm 
Offline

Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2009 10:27 am
Posts: 28
Fascinating post.
Let's try the feats (originally assigned 10, Hercules was given two extra because the Hydra and the Stables were done improperly):
1. Skin a lion (he strangles it first)
2. Kill the poisonous Hydra (doesn't count: he had help)
3. Kill Diana's pet deer
4. Capture live boar
5. Clean outrageously nasty stables (you got this one with the Shattuck Shelter)
6. Drive away a flock of birds
7. Chase away Cretan Bull
8. Capture man-eating mares (you gotta love Greek mythology)
9. Steal Hippolyte's warrior Belt
10. Capture cattle of Geryon (like herding cats, apparently)
11. Steal Zeus's apples (he traded jobs with Atlas and held the weight of the world for a while so Atlas would go get the apples)
12. Capture Cerberus from the entrance to Hades

So what do you think? Is it possible Gately just fulfills the two "uncounted" of Herculean feats? Or more? His handling of a few of the Resident bickering sessions evoke killing the hydra. His banter with van Dyne seems a bit like stalking Hippolyte for her veil, I mean belt.

Wish there was a meatloaf herculean feat...

Should we just leave the parallel at the square head and the stables?


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: The Labors of Don Gately
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 7:49 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Jul 13, 2009 1:11 pm
Posts: 91
Excellent catch. The 12 labors are on Wikipedia here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labours_of_Hercules .

Looks like the Augean stables connection is appropriate. And perhaps Pat Montesian's dogs are the Cerebus to be calmed. How about #11: Steal the Apples of the Hesperides--They give immortality or, alternately, (via wikipedia) "They are considered by some to be the same "apples of joy" that tempted Atalanta, as opposed to the "apple of discord" used by Eris to start a beauty contest on Olympus. On Attic pottery, especially from the late fifth century, Heracles is depicted sitting in bliss in the Gardens of the Hesperides, attended by the maidens." Hmm. What could Gately possibly steal that might lead to sitting around in bliss?

But even more fun: Athena invented the Chariot, which she let Hercules borrow on occasion (http://www.goddess-athena.org/Museum/Vases/index.htm). I wonder if the shift knob dug into Hercules' leg when he drove it?

ETA: even better possibility for the Hercules reference may be "The Choice of Hercules," which I was not previously familiar with. In brief (via Wikipedia)*: "After killing his music tutor Linus with a lyre, he was sent to tend cattle on a mountain by his foster father Amphitryon. Here, according to an allegorical parable, "The Choice of Heracles", invented by the sophist Prodicus (ca. 400 BC), he was visited by two nymphs—Pleasure and Virtue—who offered him a choice between a pleasant and easy life or a severe but glorious life: he chose the latter."

*You can find a fuller text by searching the interwebs for Xenophon's Memorabilia or Choice of Hercules -- apparantly we know of Prodicus' invention b/c of Xenophon's telling of the story.)


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: The Labors of Don Gately
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 8:41 pm 
Offline

Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2009 10:27 am
Posts: 28
Dang! Doubtful geste, I bow to you. The chariot catch is outstanding!

Except now I have to go on a rampage reading all the Hercules stuff I can get my hands on...


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: The Labors of Don Gately
PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 5:37 am 
Offline

Joined: Tue Jul 21, 2009 8:48 am
Posts: 61
Quote:
Hmm. What could Gately possibly steal that might lead to sitting around in bliss?


I know this happened well before Gately entered Ennet House but burglarizing the ADA's home and then sending the photo of their toothbrushes protruding from his butt must have given him a real sense of bliss.

I have another but it's beyond the spoiler line.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: The Labors of Don Gately
PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 9:21 am 
Offline

Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2009 7:36 am
Posts: 41
Location: Oakland, CA
Hmmm, virtuous struggling and suffering, yes. Obviously, the square head of Hercules has some role. But I don't find any of the "labors" of Hercules to be especially convincing in parallel to DG.

Let's keep watching for square heads. One of them is Lord in the headmaster's office, who still has his head enclosed by a monitor. Another is "The Infant" that Lenz rambles on about, whose head sans skull conforms to the box in which it lies.

In both these cases, the crucial reference is to the televisual (or the TP) as a replacement for one's head.

_________________
http://infinitetasks.wordpress.com/


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 14 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next

All times are UTC - 8 hours [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group
Translated by Maël Soucaze © 2009 phpBB.fr