Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest

by

David Foster Wallace

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Infinite Jest: Chapter 50 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Pre-Dawn, 1 May — Y.D.A.U. Outcropping Northwest of Tucson AZ U.S.A., Still. Steeply mentions a Canadian biomedical experiment in the 1970s wherein electro-implantations were to be placed in epileptics’ brains as a form of treatment. During testing on animals, scientists discovered that firing particular electrodes inside the brain produced “intense feelings of pleasure.” All of the animals used in the tests became fixated on pressing the lever that delivered the pleasure, and eventually died as a result of exhaustion and fatigue.
The experiment described here suggests that humans are not unique in their addiction to pleasure. If animals have the same compulsion, one could potentially assume that it is biologically determined, and therefore not within people’s capacity to change. Of course, such a position stands at odds with AA’s philosophy regarding addiction.
Themes
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
When it came to testing on humans, the scientists presumed that it would be difficult to find volunteers. However, around this time the details of the experiment were leaked, and suddenly the lab was overrun with hundreds of volunteers, mostly young and able-bodied. As a result of this surprising twist, a whole new psychology study about the human desire for pleasure was conducted on the eager volunteers. The team of psychologists concluded that they were totally normal, average young people. The Canadian government was horrified by the whole situation. Steeply points out that the experiment is a good analogy for the Entertainment.
Here there is a twist in the story that is decidedly unflattering to humans. That young people eagerly volunteered themselves for a test even though they knew the animals involved ended up dead demonstrates the extreme extent of people’s desire for pleasure. Yet even though Steeply claims this is a useful analogy for the Entertainment, it is in fact still unclear how much agency people have in each case, and whether they can therefore be blamed for “choosing” to seek pleasure in such a destructive way.   
Themes
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
New resident Amy J. tries to get out of eating Gately’s boiled hot dogs by claiming that Red Dye #4 gives her “cluster migraines,” while Joelle claims to be a vegetarian. Shockingly, Pat tells Gately to pick up eggs and peppers so the two new residents can make a quiche instead. Gately drives Pat’s car. He hasn’t had sex in two years, and never sober. At 29, he is having wet dreams again. He drives through Inman Square to up near Harvard. He passes the storefront of Lucien and Bertraund Antitoi, Quebecois brothers who are members of a “not very terrifying insurgent cell.”
As we have seen, the early stages of recovery bring lots of difficulty, trauma, and pain. Yet this passage hints at some positive sides of the beginning of recovery as well. Gately may feel like an awkward teenager now that he is having wet dreams again, but this is actually a sign that he is regaining a healthy interest in sex after losing it through his addiction.
Themes
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
The Antitoi brothers were friends with DuPlessis before he was “martyred.” The cartridge-rental store they own is called Antitoi Entertainment and doesn’t have many customers. Through the door, Lucien catches sight of two figures in wheelchairs on the shop floor. When he realizes that it is the A.F.R., Lucien begins to “whimper.” At that moment, a snag in zipper causes the entirety of his pants to unravel and fall from his legs. He clutches a gun and desperately tries to cover himself. The A.F.R. members greet him in French, but Lucien (unlike his brother) cannot understand French despite being from Quebec.
The Antitoi brothers are entirely foolish, comic characters. This is shown in many ways—by the fact that they are involved with terrorism as members of a “not very terrifying” cell, that they run an unsuccessful store, that they are terrified of A.F.R., and that Lucien inexplicably cannot speak French.
Themes
Entertainment Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
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The leader of the A.F.R. takes Lucien’s gun from his hand, still speaking to him in French and ignoring the fact that Lucien has shit himself. The leader asks about an entertainment that Lucien and Bertraund have recently acquired. Lucien is not able to answer, and the A.F.R. members begin searching the shop. One of them strokes Lucien’s mouth with the sharp handle of Lucien’s own broom. He then shoves the broom down Lucien’s throat. Happy memories flash through Lucien’s mind before he dies. Having left his body behind, he is “free, catapulted home” over the Great Convexity at great speed.
Throughout the novel we have been told that the A.F.R. are terrifying, but this is the first time that this statement is actually supported by action. The gruesome murder of Lucien shows that the A.F.R. are totally merciless, even when it comes to their own countrymen. The surreal end of the chapter is a surprisingly sentimental portrayal of life after death.
Themes
Entertainment Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Pre-Dawn, 1 May — Y.D.A.U. Outcropping Northwest of Tucson AZ U.S.A., Still. Steeply asks if Marathe has ever considered watching The Entertainment. First Marathe confirms that the A.F.R. have a “read-only” copy of the cartridge, and then he adds that he’s never been tempted to watch it. Steeply mentions that the author of the Entertainment was “a cutting-edge optics man.” There is a theory that the optical density of the film, combined with its “realism,” are what make it irresistible. Marathe dismisses the theory as “irrelevant.”
This is the first time that we receive any sense of why the Entertainment is actually so addictive. That the explanation is a rather scientific one based in optics suggests that the Entertainment hypnotizes people on a subconscious level.
Themes
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon