Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest

by

David Foster Wallace

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Infinite Jest: Chapter 39 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
14 November Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment. Poor Tony has a seizure on the T after a week drinking codeine cough syrup. After the horrible events of the previous winter he has been avoiding all his old haunts in Boston, which means he cannot buy drugs and has gone into heroin withdrawal. He becomes incredibly sick, to the point that “his symptoms themselves developed symptoms.” He loses the ability to control his urination, and in desperation starts ingesting cough syrup while confined to a toilet. His experience of time changes drastically and horribly.
The description of Poor Tony’s withdrawal illustrates the most grim, ugly, and horrifying side of drug use. While details such as his symptoms themselves developing symptoms seem humorous, they do not alleviate the ghastly reality of Tony’s withdrawal.
Themes
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Two days after he runs out of syrup, Tony begins to withdraw from the syrup’s alcohol, codeine, and morphine. Catching the Gray Line from Watertown Center, Tony realizes that he’s become the kind of person people move away from on public transport. He cries in shame, shits his pants, and then has the seizure. This is a painful experience and involves multiple terrifying visions. He swallows his tongue and feels someone’s hands reach into his mouth and pull it back out. His final thought is fear that people can see up his dress.
Here Poor Tony has a painful moment of confronting his own dehumanization, which occurs both through his physical degradation and the judgment of others. That someone actually helps Tony by pulling his tongue out of his mouth comes almost as a surprise. People who are ostracized and dehumanized by the wider society are often left to suffer because people refuse to touch them.
Themes
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon