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xml:lang="en" lang="en" dir="ltr"> Chapter 5: 42-46 - Thomas Pynchon Wiki | Mason & Dixon

Chapter 5: 42-46

Page 42

Him so strange...All that Coal-mining, I guess
The joke is that Mason is referring to God and Dixon thinks he means the Devil.

Page 43

Raby Meeting

The Quakers (Society of Friends) do not have churches, only 'Meeting Houses' - So Raby Meeting is the congregation.


Page 45

In swift reply comes a Letter of Reproach and Threat from the Royal Society
Much of the back and forth correspondence is available here.

From the RS letter: "Resolved unanimously, That the Council are extremely surprised at their declining to pursue their Voyage to Bencoolen and which they have solemnly undertaken; and have actually received several sums of money upon account of their expences, and in earnest of performing their contract. That their refusal to proceed upon this voyage after their having so publickly and notoriously ingaged in it, will be a Reproach to the Nation in General, to the Royal Society in particular, and more especially and fatally to themselves: And that, after the Crown has been graciously and generously pleased to encourage this undertaking by a grant of money towards carrying it on; and the Lords of Admiralty to fit out a ship of war, on purpose to carry these gentlemen to Bencoolen; and after the expectation of this and various other nations has been raised, to attend the event of their voyage; their declining it at this critical juncture, when it is too late to supply their Places, cannot fail to bring an indelible scandal upon their character and probably end in their utter Ruin. That in case they shall persist in their refusal, or volun-tarily frustrate the end and disappoint the Intention of their Voyage, or take any steps to thwart it, they may assure themselves of being treated by the Council with the most inflexible Resentment, and prosecuted with the utmost Severity of Law."

As if...there were no single Destiny
This paragraph echoes a common them in Pynchon's work, the collapsing of many possible realities into a single Reality through time, a concept that is also echoed in quantum mechanics with the collapse of the wave function, where a haze of possibilities is collapsed into a single state when observed. Or alternatively, as the "many-worlds interpretation" of quantum mechanics would have it, perhaps there isn't a collapse into one single reality, but each possiblity continues to form a thread in an infinity of realized outcomes.

This theme is revisited numerous times in M & D, with reality either collapsing or diverging:

  • "the event not yet 'reduc'd to certainty' (p. 177)
  • "Transition between Two Worlds" (p. 180)
  • "Or let us postulate two Dixons, then, one in an unmoving Stupor throughout,— the other, for Simplicity, assum'd to've ridden [...] out to Nelson's Ferry" (p. 393)
  • "I myself did stumble [...] into that very Whirlpool in Time,— finding myself in September third, 1752 [...] as ev'ryone else mov'd on to the Fourteenth of September." (p. 556)
  • "Suppose that Mason and Dixon and their Line cross Ohio after all..." (p. 706)

On page 258, Pynchon uses the nautical term "single up all lines" in what could be interpreted as a metaphor for the reduction of many lines into a single line. "Single up all lines" also appears in V., p.11; The Crying of Lot 49, p.31; Gravity's Rainbow, p.489; and Mason & Dixon, pp.258 and 260; and Against the Day where Pynchon deploys the term as both a positive ("Cheerily now [...] Prepare to cast her off!") and a negative (cattle "rationalized into movement only in straight lines and at right angles and a progressive reduction of choices, until the final turn through the final gate that led to the killing-floor"). (p. 10)

Annotation Index

One:
Latitudes and Departures

1: 5-11, 2: 12-13, 3: 14-29, 4: 30-41, 5: 42-46, 6: 47-57, 7: 58-76, 8: 77-86, 9: 87-93, 10: 94-104, 11: 105-115, 12: 116-124, 13: 125-145, 14: 146-157, 15: 158-166, 16: 167-174, 17: 175-182, 18: 183-189, 19: 190-198, 20: 199-206, 21: 207-214, 22: 215-227, 23: 228-237, 24: 238-245, 25: 245-253


Two:
America

26: 257-265, 27: 266-274, 28: 275-288, 29: 289-295, 30: 296-301, 31: 302-314, 32: 315-326, 33: 327-340, 34: 341-348, 35: 349-361, 36: 362-370, 37: 371-381, 38: 382-390, 39: 391-398, 40: 399-409, 41: 410-421, 42: 422-435, 43: 436-439, 44: 440-447, 45: 448-451, 46: 452-459, 47: 460-465, 48: 466-475, 49: 476-483, 50: 484-490, 51: 491-498, 52: 499-510, 53: 511-524, 54: 525-541, 55: 542-553, 56: 554-561, 57: 562-569, 58: 570-574, 59: 575-584, 60: 585-596, 61: 597-607, 62: 608-617, 63: 618-622, 64: 623-628, 65: 629-632, 66: 633-645, 67: 646-657, 68: 658-664, 69: 665-677, 70: 678-686, 71: 687-693, 72: 694-705, 73: 706-713

Three:
Last Transit

74: 717-732, 75: 733-743, 76: 744-748, 77: 749-757, 78: 758-773

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