Blue…Blue…Blue is for Blind Addiction

I knew none of this back when I was writing about robin’s egg blue.

Infinite Winter participants, I think I am finding a way to track time and addiction’s phases by tracking references to the color blue in Infinite Jest.

Can I get your eyes on tracking this through the second half of the book? I’m figuring something out that may help make sense of how time is progressing in Infinite Jest. It is really starting to look like blue is the color of addiction, specifically when the gaining and holding on of an addiction isn’t being acknowledged and/or when it is too late (think about all the references to blue faces).

Just to prove how hard and fast this theory isn’t, I’ll start with the way I started this figuring out.

That whole mattress scene, I was picturing an extremely detailed photograph of Avril and JOI’s bedroom, with the addition of Hal to help with the figuring and ultimately the mattress moving. See, here I am disproving that a guide needs to be anything close to all-knowing, because this scene is actually about JOI and his parents and their mattress problems.

Once I got over just being plain wrong, with the date starting the scene and all, I was able to think about some new connections. Thanks to participant DavBroChill on our Reddit for taking the time to share this Harper’s story by David Foster Wallace, point out my mistake and get me on this new track.

Both Hal and JOI look closely at their surroundings and really start to zoom in on particular details as they age. JOI starts relating the mattress’s curve, jammed in the hallway, even–as it could relate and become a piece of his research into annular lenses.

Then we have Hal, honing in on all the blue things, in the waiting room outside the offices at Enfield.

“Hal, continually checking his chin for drool.”

Well, Mmyellow to signs of addiction, right there. Imagine that Hal has also recently read and discussed Homer’s Odyssey for a class. Again, let me know if this is too far a reach, but there is not a single reference to blue in Homer’s Odyssey, and it is not unlikely that someone would have brought this up in a class discussion–maybe even Hal.

There was not a description for blue, and therefore, there was not an awareness of the color’s presence in Odyssey (see how the word color could be replaced with addiction in Infinite Jest?). Verbal descriptions for the color blue did not exist in Odyssey’s time frame, so words for other colors were used. And to my knowledge, Hal isn’t aware and ready to stop his addictive rituals at the time he is reading all the blueness in the waiting room. So really, blue could be referenced in Infinite Jest, as a clue to the reader, when there is a lack of awareness in the building up of an addiction.

Descriptions and words, for what we think of as blue, join into collective consciousness during modern times. And modern times come with enough power through knowledge to go full- blown destructive.

So what is Hal going to do with the opposite of the lack of blue in Odyssey? He is doing fine, mentally binging on blue as a tracking device and coping mechanism while he waits out waiting in the waiting room, but that isn’t going to get him through much beyond that.

What I see is a belief that enough knowledge can get us through anything, but this is unfortunately false, like stories unfolding on screens or across pages.

I’m thinking it takes a little letting go of knowledge to survive. Because Hal, all able to reference a range of blues that can’t even be described in Homer’s Odyssey, points to untethered evolution or gained knowledge that is only helping Hal become more myopic — and how is that really going to get him away from the underground ventilation system?

Blue is one of the most frequently referenced colors in Infinite Jest. References to blue may be pointing out how often Infinite Jest’s characters are existing outside of awareness and in the fog of addiction.

But don’t take my word for it; Just keep enjoying the reading!

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2 thoughts on “Blue…Blue…Blue is for Blind Addiction”

  1. I haven’t yet attributed the color blue to anything more specific than the pure, clear, unadulterated, unspoiled, natural background of truth and openness onto which deviations like clouds, filth, vomit, and death, etc. are projected. I’ve noticed the varying levels of darkness, secrecy, and disguise where there is absolutely no blue. While reading lately I’ve been aware I’m parsing whether or not the blue of things like the wallpaper, carpet, veil, or sweater, is unintended and real, or just a deliberate and intentionally obscuring fake. I like your idea of characters seeing the blue all around them as a metaphor for awareness itself though.

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