Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar. This chapter begins in the first person, in African-American Vernacular English. The narrator, Clenette, describes someone called Wardine whose mother beats her. Wardine’s mother’s boyfriend, Roy Tony, molests her. Clenette’s mother says Wardine’s mother is “not right in the head.” A boy called Reginald loves Wardine and tries to help her, but also tries to pressure her into having sex with him. Roy Tony, who is on parole and wears an ankle bracelet, is also Wardine’s father’s brother. Clenette is Wardine’s half-sister; Wardine tells Clenette and Reginald that if they tell their mothers what’s happening to her, she will kill herself.
Infinite Jest is filled with unexpected narrative shifts to new locations, situations, and casts of characters. However, this is perhaps the most jarring shift in the novel. Not only is the reader suddenly introduced to an enormous, complex group of characters with intricate relations to one another, but the prose has suddenly switched to AAVE. This is a disorientating (and perhaps ethically dubious) move.
Four years ago Roy Tony killed someone out of love for Clenette’s mother. Clenette doesn’t tell her mother about Wardine, but Reginald does in order to save Wardine from being beaten again. Reginald plans to confront Roy Tony, and Clenette fears that Roy Tony will kill him if he does so. Then Clenette will be the only one left with the secret. At the end of the passage, she says she is pregnant.
Adding to the ethically suspect dimension of this paragraph is the fact that it is filled with negative stereotypes about poor black communities: domestic abuse, incest, criminality, prison, violence, and teen pregnancy.
The narrative switches back to the third person. In 8th grade, Bruce Green falls in love with a stunningly beautiful girl in his class called Mildred Bonk. By 10th grade, Mildred becomes part of a crew at their high school who smokes cigarettes and weed, drinks alcohol, and skips class. By the time they are 18, Bruce and Mildred live together with their baby daughter, two other couples, and a drug dealer named Tommy Doocey. Mildred gets high in the afternoon and watches entertainment cartridges, while Bruce works at Leisure Time Ice. For a while their life is “more or less one big party.”
Depending on one’s perspective, Bruce and Mildred are either living a dream or a nightmare. Bruce’s childhood crush on Mildred means that their life together is something of a “happily ever after,” as emphasized by the phrase “one big party.” At the same time, they are also high school dropouts, teen parents, and drug users—all identities generally condemned by society.