Addiction and Substances as Characters

Hey guys!

As I was doing the reading for tomorrow’s class, I couldn’t help but notice how Wallace capitalizes references to addiction and the sources of addiction.

To name a few moments, Orin refers to his sexual exploits as “Subjects,” with a capital “S,” when he’s on the phone with Hal. During the sequences with Joelle, the narrator refers to cocaine as “Material” and the act of getting high as “Too Much Fun.” In the section that takes place at Ennet House, addiction is referred to as the “Disease” and “The Spider.”

By capitalizing these words (among the many others I didn’t mention), it’s like Wallace gives these inanimate objects and ideas as much stake in the story as human people. Addiction and sources of addiction play as big of a role in progressing the novel as Hal, Joelle, and the rest of the human characters, and Wallace is acknowledging this by capitalizing these words, as if these are their names.

What do you think?


About Ellie

Resolving to find a love of writing again.
This entry was posted in General Interest, Infinite Jest, Interactive Literature and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Addiction and Substances as Characters

  1. epiratequeen says:

    I think it’s interesting that Wallace places more focus on the addiction than on the substances themselves. Many addiction narratives will create the illusion between an addict and their substance by characterizing the substance and allowing the substance itself to have bearing on the addict’s state of mind. In Infinite Jest, Wallace makes it clear that it is the addiction rather than the substance that is affecting addicts. This is clear in the textual evidence you mentioned (capitalization of “Too Much Fun,” “Dis-ease” etc.) and elsewhere. I remember one passage where Wallace discussed the nightmares that the addicts living at the Ennet House had and all of them seemed to be about “getting high,” not about heroin or cocaine themselves.


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