Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest

by

David Foster Wallace

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The Great Concavity/Convexity Symbol Analysis

The Great Concavity/Convexity Symbol Icon

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.

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The Great Concavity/Convexity Symbol Timeline in Infinite Jest

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.
Chapter 10
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...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)
Chapter 16
Entertainment Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...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)
Chapter 20
Entertainment Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
...of the Entertainment, and Marathe replies that it is also the city nearest to the Great Concavity and Québec. Marathe asks why Steeply is never sent into the field as himself; he... (full context)
Chapter 36
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
...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)
Chapter 40
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...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)
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...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)
Chapter 45
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...U.S. was facing at the time, and the decision to dump this waste in the Great Concavity . (full context)
Entertainment Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...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)
Entertainment Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...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)
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
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)
Chapter 46
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...Marathe’s wife, Gertraude, was born without a skull (a common side-effect of proximity to the Great Concavity ). (full context)
Chapter 50
Entertainment Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...before he dies. Having left his body behind, he is “free, catapulted home” over the Great Convexity at great speed. (full context)
Chapter 57
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...one about how he once met a deformed infant who was a refugee from the Great Concavity . At E.T.A., Hal and John Wayne have a brief, silent encounter. (full context)
Chapter 58
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...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)
Chapter 62
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
...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)
Chapter 74
Entertainment Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
...rages, triggered by the combination of wind from Mexico and the Arctic mingling above the Great Concavity . (full context)