Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest


David Foster Wallace

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Themes and Colors
Talent, Precociousness, and Fame Theme Icon
Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Theme Icon
Entertainment Theme Icon
Reality as Corporate Dystopia Theme Icon
Institutional Control vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Infinite Jest, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Talent, Precociousness, and Fame

Infinite Jest is set in a near-future world where contemporary obsessions with competition, celebrity, and success are exaggerated to an at times surreal degree. The culture of the novel is completely fixated on talent, precociousness, and fame, and this is particularly true at the Enfield Tennis Academy—one of the novel’s main settings. The characters chase success and marvel at other people’s talents, yet, in keeping with the novel’s dark mood, talent, precociousness, and fame are…

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Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide

In Infinite Jest, addiction, mental illness, and suicide are not unusual or abnormal pathologies that affect only a select number of people. Instead, they are ubiquitous: every significant character in the novel seems to suffer from addiction or mental illness of some kind. Furthermore, while some of the characters are addicted to substances that readers traditionally think of as causing addiction (such as drugs and alcohol), others are addicted to more abstract things like sex…

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Entertainment is a powerful element of Infinite Jest’s America. The novel takes a suspicious, if not entirely condemnatory attitude toward entertainment. In the world of the novel, entertainment is an often dangerous force, a phenomenon to which people are compulsively drawn and which can even be used as a weapon. This is particularly true of the most significant example of entertainment in the novel, which is simply known as “the Entertainment.” James

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Reality as Corporate Dystopia

Infinite Jest is set in a near-future alternate world that resembles contemporary reality in many ways, but is also an exaggerated, surreal, and extreme version of this reality. This is particularly true in the case of corporations and the dystopian power they wield in the novel. While many science fiction novels contain portrayals of corporate dystopias, Infinite Jest stands out for the fact that the corporate dystopia it depicts is so close to the reality…

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Institutional Control vs. Rebellion

Infinite Jest is set among a number of prominent institutions, which—rather than simply existing in the background—play a prominent and powerful role in the lives of the characters and the narrative as a whole. These institutions include Enfield Tennis Academy (E.T.A.), the Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery House, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.). In a more abstract sense, Les Assassins des Fauteuils Rollents (A.F.R.), the Organization…

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