Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest

by

David Foster Wallace

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Hugh Steeply is an O.U.S. operative who is undercover as a journalist called Helen throughout the novel. Steeply is loyal to his country and believes deeply in the American principle of freedom of choice. However, as Marathe points out, Steeply’s mission of trying to intercept the master copy of the Entertainment in order to stop it being distributed to American citizens theoretically violates his belief in this freedom. Steeply isn’t trans, just in disguise, yet is referred to with she/her pronouns when appearing as Helen in the book. When it is unclear under what guise Steeply is in, s/he and her/his are used. Steeply is large is stature, and the book fixates on the apparent incongruity between his size and female presentation.

Hugh / Helen Steeply Quotes in Infinite Jest

The Infinite Jest quotes below are all either spoken by Hugh / Helen Steeply or refer to Hugh / Helen Steeply. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Back Bay Books edition of Infinite Jest published in 1996.
Chapter 51 Quotes

I couldn't even stand to be in the same room, see him like that. Begging for just even a few seconds - a trailer, a snatch of soundtrack, anything. His eyes wobbling around like some drug-addicted newborn.

Related Characters: Hugh / Helen Steeply (speaker), Rémy Marathe
Related Symbols: The Entertainment, Substances
Page Number: 507
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Infinite Jest LitChart as a printable PDF.
Infinite Jest PDF

Hugh / Helen Steeply Character Timeline in Infinite Jest

The timeline below shows where the character Hugh / Helen Steeply appears in Infinite Jest. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 16
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...his wheelchair watching the sun set in a suburb of Tucson, Arizona. He hears Hugh Steeply, a field operative from Unspecified Services, yell and curse as he accidentally collides with a... (full context)
Entertainment Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Steeply wears women’s clothing and prosthetic breasts. Marathe was originally supposed to pretend to betray A.F.R.... (full context)
Entertainment Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Steeply accuses A.F.R. of having something to do with the Entertainment, suggesting that the cell wanted... (full context)
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Steeply tells Marathe that the Office of Unspecified Services knows Marathe is acting as a “quadruple”... (full context)
Chapter 17
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...a Nazi, and another student—who is known for sucking up to Schtitt—objects. Back in Tucson, Steeply talks to Marathe about someone called Rod Tine’s love for Luria. Marathe comments that it... (full context)
Chapter 20
Entertainment Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
30 April — Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment. Steeply points out that Boston is the home of the creator of the Entertainment, and Marathe... (full context)
Chapter 25
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Enormous, Electrolysis-Rashed Journalist ‘HelenSteeply’s Only Putative Published Article Before Beginning her Soft Profile on Phoenix Cardinals Punter Orin... (full context)
Chapter 36
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
Putative Curriculum Vitae of Helen P. Steeply, 36, 1.93 M., 104 KG., A.B., M.J.A. This chapter begins with Helen Steeply’s... (full context)
Chapter 37
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
...that he did, at the age of 13. Orin mentions that the journalist’s name is Helen. Orin asks about the P.G.O.A.T.—Joelle—and Hal explains that she hasn’t been around E.T.A. since she... (full context)
Chapter 40
Entertainment Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...political. Orin admits that he is interested in all this because of his latest Subject, Helen, who he claims is different to all his previous Subjects. He questions Hal about Canadian... (full context)
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...hate Anglophone Canada far more than they hate O.N.A.N. Hal asks for more information about Helen, and when Orin gets cagey, Hal brings up Orin’s promiscuity and fetish for married mothers.... (full context)
Chapter 41
Entertainment Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
30 April / 1 May Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment. Marathe suggests to Steeply that Canadians are not the real threat, considering that the Entertainment was produced by an... (full context)
Chapter 44
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
...fatal flaw in all his work was plot. (An endnote here contains a “transcript-fragment” from Helen Steeply’s interview with Orin in Moment magazine. Orin explains how James slowly lost his sanity... (full context)
Chapter 45
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...missed the whole Eschaton fiasco. Charles has also been preoccupied with the imminent arrival of Helen Steeply on E.T.A.’s campus.) Mario gives a very short introduction to the film, which is... (full context)
Chapter 46
Entertainment Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
30 April / 1 May Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment. Marathe and Steeply remain on the mountainside. They both refuse to discuss how they are going to get... (full context)
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Marathe and Steeply have a philosophical debate involving a hypothetical single serving of soup that two people both... (full context)
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...this shows that they do not actually trust citizens to make their own free choices. Steeply insists that there is a huge difference between the “enslaving” nature of the Entertainment and... (full context)
Chapter 50
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia 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 mentions a Canadian biomedical experiment in the 1970s wherein electro-implantations were to be placed in... (full context)
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
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.... (full context)
Chapter 51
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Steeply admits that the Office of Unspecified Services have already lost a couple of people to... (full context)
Chapter 53
Entertainment Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Pre-Dawn and Dawn, 1 May Y.D.A.U. Outcropping Northwest of Tucson AZ U.S.A., Still. Marathe and Steeply discuss an “Oriental myth” about a woman with blonde hair all over her body. Although... (full context)
Chapter 58
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...sex with a Swiss hand-model he met in Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport after dropping off Helen Steeply at departures. (An endnote here provides more transcript fragments of Steeply’s interview with Orin... (full context)
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...“worship[ing] Mario,” treating him as a “secular martyr.” However, he then starts refusing to answer Helen’s questions, pointing out that Hal will read the article and then show it to Mario.... (full context)
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
...sure this was the universe’s way of saving him from any negative feelings triggered by Helen’s departure. (full context)
Entertainment Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...the Boston Duck Pond undergoing its annual draining. Tine’s son Rodney Tine Jr., who—like Hugh Steeply—is a O.U.S. operative, is sitting with Steeply in the same conference room as his father. (full context)
Chapter 60
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
1 May Y.D.A.U. Outcropping Northwest of Tucson Arizona U.S.A. Steeply admits that his own father became “consumed with a sort of entertainment” at one point... (full context)
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
Steeply’s mother began taking anti-anxiety medication. His father stopped leaving the “den” where he watched the... (full context)
Chapter 62
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
11 November Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment. Helen Steeply has arrived at E.T.A. and watches a match Hal plays against Stice. Both players... (full context)
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Steeply asks when she will be able to talk to Hal; deLint initially ignores her, and... (full context)
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
The next passage is a letter from Helen Steeply to Marlon K. Bain, who now appears to work for a greeting card company... (full context)
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...Hal and Stice. DeLint has left, and Thierry Poutrincourt has come to sit next to Steeply instead. She explains that E.T.A. staff might seem unfriendly because they are protective of their... (full context)
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Steeply reiterates that she is profiling Orin, not a current E.T.A. student. DeLint returns, and Steeply... (full context)
Chapter 68
Entertainment Theme Icon
...Entertainment and appeared to have obtained them via a relative who was an athlete (Orin). Steeply has been “clinging to this person like a bad odor.” Fortier notices that the U.S.... (full context)
Chapter 69
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 74
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Meanwhile, outside the hospital a “grotesquely huge woman” (Steeply) tells Joelle that she is in terrible danger, but Joelle is not surprised by this... (full context)
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
Joelle responds to questions (presumably posed by Hugh/Helen Steeply) about the Entertainment. She describes the only two scenes in which she appears, both... (full context)