The Secret Integration

"The Secret Integration" was first published in The Saturday Evening Post in December of 1964, after the publication of Pynchon's first novel V. He has little to say about this story in the Introduction, other than it seems to be his favorite of the collection. He calls it his "journeyman" effort, liking the "positive direction" of his writing, with the exception of some of his "less responsible Surrealism."

The story, set in a small town, follows the adventures of a group of young boys as they deal with their relations to the adults in the community. The boys find themselves caught between the stubborn racism of their parents' generation, and the civil rights era open mindedness they have grown into. While the adults harass the first black family to move into town, the children welcome them, allowing the boy in the family to initiate into their gang, a first step towards integration.

Their gang's major function is to play practical jokes. Games play an important role in the story, appropriate for the young characters, and the gang plans an anti-institutional revolution, he political minded youth looking for major overhauls in a system that seems so wrong to them. Roles are reversed here, the children trying to teach the adults that the racist games they play are wrong. Play prevails in the end though, when the black child turns out to be a figment of the children's imagination, and is let go to flee the small town hatred.

Pynchon develops the characters of this engaging story sensitively, realistically portraying the children's voices and actions. It is much different from his other works, though the name of minor character Doctor Slothrop reminds us our favorite Gravity's Rainbow character, probable relative, Tyrone.

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