The Great Concavity is a heavily-polluted region of New England that was “gifted” to Canada during the formation of O.N.A.N. In Canada, it is referred to as the “Great Convexity” rather than Concavity, a humorous nod to the fact that the shape of the area looks different depending on the angle from which it is viewed. The Great Concavity is symbolic of the fact that the world of the novel is something of a corporate dystopia, in which serious environmental damage has been trigged by high-consumption, wasteful capitalist culture and neither corporations nor governments take responsibility for this environmental damage. The novel includes transcripts of the meetings between government representatives in which it was decided that the U.S. would “give” the Great Concavity to Canada. These transcripts portray political leaders as entirely corrupt and ludicrously incompetent. The existence of the Great Concavity also lends some credibility to the A.F.R.’s separatist impulses. Many Québécois separatists cite the Great Concavity as one of the main reasons why they want independence from Canada and O.N.A.N.; this is especially personal for A.F.R. member Rémy Marathe, whose wife, Gertraude, is one of the many people who has been severely disabled by exposure to the region’s toxicity. In this sense, the existence of the Great Concavity indicates that the separatist movement is actually not entirely unreasonable.
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Great Concavity/Convexity appears in Infinite Jest. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...is in fact “the right-hand man to the most infamous anti-O.N.A.N. organizer north of the Great Concavity .” He has moved to Boston to act as a liaison between Québec separatists and... (full context)
...example” of ordinary citizens. Meanwhile, a “major herd” of feral hamsters is traversing across the Great Concavity , a northeastern territory of North America that now belongs to Canada. The narrator gives... (full context)
...In snippets of conversation, the partygoers discuss cartridges, the cheese being served, Heideggerian philosophy, the Great Concavity /Convexity, and the “cartridge-as-ecstatic-death rumor.” In Molly’s bedroom Joelle spots her own monograph (an endnote... (full context)
...open the door to Hal’s room. Hal and Orin then discuss Quebecers’ resentment of the Great Concavity , which disproportionately affects them. Indeed, this could be what is driving the anti-O.N.A.N. sentiment.) (full context)
...blunt in the woods before dinner. Orin asks why, given that all Canadians resent the Great Concavity , Quebecois separatists don’t use this to support their anti-O.N.A.N. mission. Pemulis is getting more... (full context)
...Mario’s film, more headlines announce the emergence of birth defects in babies born near the Great Concavity , and the President Gentle administration’s denial that anything shady was afoot. Having initially denied... (full context)
...the Office of Unspecified Services, announces Gentle’s plan to “give it away” (“it” meaning the Great Concavity ). The Secretary of State is appalled that Gentle let Tine persuade him to have... (full context)
More headlines describe Gentle’s effort to force Canada to accept the “gift” of the Great Concavity , despite the Canadian P.M.’s extreme reluctance to do so. One news cartridge announces that... (full context)
...unimaginable. There is now a theory that a similar principle could be applied to the Great Concavity —that injecting toxic material into an already toxic site could actually de-toxify it. (full context)
...are all hoping to find an infestation of feral hamsters—the kind that originate in the Great Concavity —which would distract Charles from the Eschaton situation. Avril has a severe phobia of rodents. (full context)