Chapter 5

Please keep these annotations SPOILER-FREE by not revealing information from later pages in the novel.
492-page edition / 547-page edition

111/115 -- Alligator
Alligators are often symbolised by a sideways "V", ie a "<".

112/116 -- Walter Reuther
Walter Philip Reuther (September 1, 1907 – May 9, 1970) was a labor leader with the UAW & CIO.

113/117 -- Mikolaj Rej

Renaisance era Polish poet, one of the founders of Polish literature. An article by the Finish Maritime Index (Brzoza, K. "Finish Maritime Sisters" 04-05) lists a cargo ship of the sizable Wihuri class under just such a name, operated by Polish Ocean Lines of Gdynia.

113/117 -- the Great Sewer Scandal of 1955
From the June 10, 1955 edition of The New York Times:

5 IN QUEENS GUILTY IN SEWER SCANDAL; CASE RAN 202 DAYS; 5 Guilty in Queens Sewer Case; 202-Day Trial Believed Record Clemente and Son Convicted With 3 Borough Employes on Laurelton Project ONE ENGINEER CLEARED 3 Could Be Fined $800,000 Each--Two-Mile Sewer Had to Be Replaced. [...] Five defendants were found guilty yesterday of conspiracy and fraud in a Laurelton, Queens, sewer scandal. A sixth was acquitted. Twelve male jurors had deliberated two and a half days.

At the time, it was the nation's longest criminal trial, at 14 months.

115/119 -- his AF of L way of running things
A reference to the American Federation of Labor - a national federation of unions founded in 1886 and dissolved in 1955 when it merged with the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The AFL was the largest union federation in the USA in the first half of the 20th century. The AFL was founded and dominated by craft unions. [1]

123/128 -- killed and boiled a catechumen
A catechumen is a "learner," one who is being instructed in the Christian faith. In the early church, a catechumen was one who underwent rigorous instruction in preparation for Holy Baptism. The word comes from the Greek and means "to echo" or "sound in the ear." Catechumens were traditionally taught through question and answer, with the answer echoing back what was first taught. A catechism is a book of instruction, often in the form of questions and answers. [2]

123/129 -- Mafia

According to Molly Hite in Ideas of Order in the Novels of Thomas Pynchon, "Mafia is a parody of Ayn Rand, whose influence was at its peak in the early sixties when V. first appeared." Ayn Rand (1905-1982) was an American novelist and philosopher widely known for her best-selling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and for developing a philosophical system called Objectivism. [3]

124/129 -- Volkswagens

Sick Dick and the Volkswagens also appears in The Crying of Lot 49.

127/133 "All quite mysterious and Dashiell Hammettlike"
Referring, of course, to the author of detective novels such as The Maltese Falcon.

128/135 Taken a Brody
This colorful term refers to Steve Brody, 1st man to survive a jump off the Brooklyn Bridge in 1885.

133/140 alter kocker
Jewish phrase of German origin, literally "old defecator" but describes someone who is "inept at everything they do" (see Talking Jewish)


  1. [1]
  2. Lutheran Church Liturgical Glossary
  3. Hite, Molly, Ideas of Order in the Novels of Thomas Pynchon, Ohio State University Press, 1983p.162, fn.13

Chapter 1
In which Benny Profane, a schlemihl and human yo-yo, gets to an apocheir
Chapter 2
The Whole Sick Crew
Chapter 3
In which Stencil, a quick-change artist, does eight impersonations
Chapter 4
In which Esther gets a nose job
Chapter 5
In which Stencil nearly goes West with an alligator
Chapter 6
In which Profane returns to street level
Chapter 7
She hangs on the western wall
Chapter 8
In which Rachel gets her yo-yo back, Roony sings a song, and Stencil calls on Bloody Chiclitz
Chapter 9
Mondaugen's story
Chapter 10
In which various sets of young people get together
Chapter 11
Confessions of Fausto Maijstral
Chapter 12
In which things are not so amusing
Chapter 13
In which the yo-yo string is revealed as a state of mind
Chapter 14
V. in love
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Epilogue, 1919
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