Infinite Jest Analysis

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The history of the videophone examines the nature of irresolution of imaginary identification even into adulthood. It is not simply that the post mirror stage child supplants imaginary relations upon entry to the symbolic order on the basis of the newly accessed image, but that an indefiniteness remains. Following the mirror stage, the child does enter the symbolic order on the basis of an image of a contained self, by way of paternal law severing the prior relationship with the mother, but the subject persistently fails to achieve the unity expressed in the mirror. The subject is further split between the imaginary and the symbolic, the latter never resolving the former, but rather rendering it a semi-consistent functional irresolution. As…show more content…
The former is a member of A.F.R., the Quebecois separatist group ‘The Wheelchair Assassins’ and the latter is a crossdressing official from the American Office of Unspecified Services; they are working together essentially to track down the location of the Entertainment for their separate political aims. In a discussion on the victims of the film, Steeply replies to Marathe’s description of the viewers who were unfortunate enough to watch the Entertainment. Marathe describes their facial expressions as “Petrified… Ossified. Inanimate” (647). However, Steeply disagrees, saying they appear “[m]ore like the opposite. More as if… stuck in some way… As if trapped in some sort of middle. Between two things. Pulled apart in different directions” (647). In one sense, each character’s interpretation of the victims’ faces relates to their political positions within the novel. Whereas Marathe, as a member of the Quebecois separatist group, might desire his enemies to be inanimate—which is the reason the group seeks the film, for use against the enemy—Steeply expresses the deeply American sentiment (at least, the America of O.N.A.N. in Infinite Jest) of being caught in a deadlock. The film being Wallace’s pointed critique of American culture, one is tempted to concur with the latter interpretation. In a Lacanian sense, the victims appear stuck inside this narcissistic deadlock, similar to what is portrayed in the videophone segment, which highlights the fragility of imaginary identification. Nichols names this trap ‘liminality’—which is a state of indetermination in the midst of a life transition—which seems to suggest that the viewer becomes caught within the transitive irresolution of imaginary

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