Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest

by

David Foster Wallace

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Infinite Jest: Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment. Hal is secretly getting high in the Pump Room of Enfield Tennis Academy. He uses a one-hitter because this is the most inconspicuous way of smoking weed. Only a handful of Hal’s acquaintances knows he gets high, and he avoids doing it with anyone else whenever possible. Avril knows that Hal occasionally drinks, and while she worries about this because of James’s alcoholism, Hal’s achievements assure her that it is not a major problem. The presence of recreational drugs is “traditional” in American high schools, and there have always been students at E.T.A. who use them.
Avril’s rather relaxed attitude toward her son’s drug use could be an indication that she is a reasonable, open-minded parent. On the other hand, perhaps it indicates that—like Uncle Charles and the deans at the beginning of the novel—she doesn’t really care about Hal’s feelings, as long as he is performing well athletically and academically.
Themes
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Most Americans take drugs or use some other method to “give themselves away.” Using drugs or alcohol is technically grounds for expulsion for E.T.A., but this is rarely enforced, particularly because the prorectors of the school—who are E.T.A. alumni—tend to get high themselves, too. Hal is nonetheless completely fixated with erasing all traces of his marijuana use. He doesn’t know why he feels this way.
Hal’s obsession with eradicating the evidence of his marijuana use recalls the behavior of Ken Erdedy, who was stuck in a repeating cycle of obsessively setting up the conditions and equipment for smoking weed before throwing away all the evidence, only to begin the whole process again. Hal is addicted to the process and the secrecy almost as much as he is addicted to the substance itself.
Themes
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Just after midnight on April 2, the medical attaché’s wife leaves her tennis evening while the medical attaché sits at home still watching the cartridge—he has rewound it once and now has it playing on the loop. He sits staring at it, his dinner untouched, having peed his pants. Meanwhile, Mario is tasked with filming E.T.A. students playing tennis, so they can visualize their mistakes and learn to correct them.
This is the first real indication that there is something unusual and perhaps sinister about the entertainment cartridge the attaché is watching. He has lost control of basic human functions, overwhelmed by whatever kind of entertainment is on the cartridge.
Themes
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon