Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest

by

David Foster Wallace

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Infinite Jest: Chapter 69 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
14 November Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment. Joelle suddenly starts worrying about her teeth and the terrible effect that years of freebasing cocaine has had on them. Some people in Ennet House have black teeth, and some no teeth at all. Joelle fantasizes about Gately as a dentist tending to her teeth. Back at the Antitois’ shop, Fortier and his team finally find the cartridge that had once belonged to DuPlessis. Unfortunately, in the process two of the team members (Desjardins and Joubet) are lost to the Entertainment. Even more unfortunately, the team soon discovers that the cartridge is read-only. They decide to remain positive and treat this as a sign that they are one step closer to obtaining the master copy.
For Joelle, teeth are a sign of health and longevity. Whereas for years she abused and neglected her body through her drug addiction, the fact that she is now clean means that she wants to try and preserve it. Of course, this newfound desire to take care of herself is quickly becoming inseparable from her desire for Gately, as shown by the slightly strange fantasy she has of him as her dentist.
Themes
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Related Quotes
The A.F.R. now have the entire Incandenza family under surveillance, and are close to tracking down Joelle, having discovered that she was Madame Psychosis. They have kidnapped and tortured the WYYY engineer, forcing him to tell them everything he knew about Joelle’s whereabouts. They have exposed their first “test Subject” to the Entertainment, telling the Subject that he could repeat the film if he agreed to saw off one of his own fingers for each repeat play. The A.F.R. are currently rolling the streets of Boston looking for more test Subjects.
The capitalization of “subject” here is revealing, as it links the people the A.F.R. are testing the Entertainment on to the women Orin sleeps with. The phrase “test Subject” implies that in both cases, the people being referred to are treated as experiments or means to an end, rather than as true “subjects” (as opposed to objects) in themselves.
Themes
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
Randy Lenz has successfully seized the bags of the Chinese women and escaped. Unbeknownst to him, he passes Poor Tony and Ruth in the alley. He also passes a group of young crack dealers, one of whom throws a rock at him and misses. He then passes a “sexless” figure lying on the ground wearing two different shoes, hair covering their face, smelling of “rot.” Lenz keeps walking.
Lenz’s indifference as he passes the unidentifiable figure on the ground is an example of the way in which people cruelly dehumanize each other. It recalls the moment when Poor Tony was riding the T and realized that he was the kind of person people moved away from.
Themes
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Rémy Marathe is sitting in Ennet House wearing a veil. It is hot and crowded in the room, and he feels nauseous. Almost everyone is smoking. Two women are comparing their experiences of having been members of cults. Before “La Cult du Prochain Train,” Marathe had use of all his limbs. (An endnote here describes E.T.A. student James Struck Jr. conducting research on the A.F.R. for his History of Canadian Unpleasantness course. He reads about the A.F.R.’s various activities, which include placing “large reflective devices” on U.S. highways to confuse drivers and assassinating Canadian politicians.)
The title of the “History of Canadian Unpleasantness” course is hilarious due to the total lack of attempt to hide its political bias. Of course, in reality American education is heavily influenced by political bias (even if it is not always made so obvious by the titles of courses). While the U.S. itself is often portrayed as a paragon of good values, other parts of the world are sometimes presented in a largely negative light.
Themes
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
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(In the same endnote, Struck reads that La Culte du Prochain Train means “The Cult of the Next Train” and refers to a game played in Quebec wherein miners’ sons would lie down on train tracks and compete over who would be the last to scramble away before the approach of an express train. Those who remain on the tracks have their legs severed off; several of these boys go on to found A.F.R. In the whole history of the game, only one person has not jumped: John Wayne’s father Bernard.)
Finally the background behind the fact that A.F.R. consists entirely of people who use wheelchairs is revealed. Because La Culte du Prochain Train is essentially a way of demonstrating one’s capacity for reckless, courageous self-sacrifice, it is the ideal test for potential members of a terrorist cell. The mention of John Wayne’s father proves that John has a connection to the A.F.R. and could well have been planted at E.T.A. by them.
Themes
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Back in the main narrative, a man approaches Marathe and asks if he is “real.” Confused, Marathe insists that he is Swiss. The man warns Marathe that most of the other E.T.A. residents aren’t real—that they are made of metal—but that he can tell Marathe is real. He adds that you can tell other people are fake because if you get close to them you can hear a faint mechanical whirring. The man replies in an increasingly nonsensical, paranoid fashion, and eventually Marathe bids him goodnight.
This passage considers questions of inner subjectivity and authenticity. Counterintuitively, it seems as if Marathe’s veil may have persuaded this unhinged man that he is “real” whereas the others are fake. Of course, in reality Marathe is fake—he is not really Swiss (or an addict) and is using the veil to hide his true identity.
Themes
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Joelle has rediscovered a love for cleaning that has nothing to do with getting high. When she and Orin lived together as young lovers, she would put anxiety at bay by cleaning, which gave her a sense of independence and control. Before meeting Gately, Joelle had not been thinking much of the Incandenzas, who are the “second-saddest” family she’s ever met. Orin once told her that while James just stared at him blankly, Avril told him she loved him roughly one hundred times each day.
While Orin’s relationship with Joelle appears to have had a significant effect on him, the same does not seem to be true for Joelle herself. She admits here that she doesn’t think of the Incandenzas often, and Orin does not appear to have played a significant role in her (decidedly tumultuous) life.
Themes
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Orin had predicted that James would want to cast Joelle in his films because of her extraordinary beauty, and it was painfully clear that he hoped he would get closer to his father through her. Joelle found James’s work “amateurish,” yet also felt that there were barely-noticeable flickers of promise within it. Orin was only the second boy to ever approach her romantically, and Joelle remembers him confessing his crush on her. (An endnote explains that both Orin and Joelle recall that it was the other one who made the first approach.)
While Orin and Joelle are different in many ways, the endnote mentioned in this section shows that they are both proud people who are capable of self-delusion. Of course, one of them likely has the correct interpretation of the story, yet it is telling that it is important to both of them to think that the other made the first move.
Themes
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Related Quotes
After they became close, James confessed to Joelle that he didn’t know how to talk to Orin or Hal. Orin used to cry about his nonfunctional relationship with James. Avril always creeped out Joelle, and Joelle was convinced that Avril “wished her ill.” She remembers a particularly traumatizing Thanksgiving dinner during which all the Incandenzas (and Avril herself) seemed to be wearing the same fake smile.
It should not come as much of a surprise at this point that Avril had hostile feelings toward Joelle. Avril is obviously deeply attached to and protective of her sons, and would therefore be jealous of any girl they brought home.
Themes
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
At Ennet House, Marathe has a meeting with Pat Montesian. He claims to be a Swiss “resident alien” heroin addict named Henri. Pat proudly states that Ennet House is one of the only houses in the region that is accessible to people with disabilities. Through A.F.R.-overseen research, Marathe has concluded that American drug and alcohol recovery is a “paramilitary” affair. He claims that he lost his legs due to an overdose in Bern. Pat seems totally convinced by his fake account of addiction. She permits Marathe to sleep on a sofa bed in the rear office.
The use of the term “paramilitary” creates a comparison between Marathe’s insurgent activities and drug and alcohol recovery. While on one level little about the repetitive, banal way of life in Ennet House seems “paramilitary,” the absolute strictness with which rules are enforced does suggest that recovery programs’ response to addiction is akin to a merciless and efficient military operation.
Themes
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Marathe is unsure if he should accept Pat’s offer and stay here, thereby preserving the illusion of his fake identity, or if he should leave immediately and inform the A.F.R. that the master copy of the Entertainment is likely in this very house. Or, perhaps, he should do neither and summon Steeply and the O.U.S. forces to Ennet House instead. He tries to envision which would create the best outcome for his comatose wife, Gertraude. At that moment, Marathe hears Pat ask Johnette to put on a cartridge for the residents, saying that Clenette brought some donated ones over from E.T.A. that afternoon.
As this passage shows, Marathe has still not decided whether he is ultimately a triple or quadruple agent. Indeed, his indecision here is surprising, considering how hard and determinedly he and the rest of the A.F.R. have worked to reach this moment. It becomes clear that Marathe’s loyalty to his wife far exceeds any loyalty he has to Quebec or the A.F.R. He only thinks of what is best for her.
Themes
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon