Sexual child abuse features centrally in Gravity’s Rainbow. While the sexual abuse of children is certainly a valid topic for a novel, I have become more and more disturbed by Pynchon's handling of Slothrop and Bianca. While I can justify the centrally themed child abuse in Lolita and Finnegans Wake, I am less sure about Gravity's Rainbow.
Slothrop was sexually abused as a child by Laszlo Jamf, as part of an experiment involving inducing erections in the kid. It turns out that Slothrop's father had "sold" him, for Jamf's experiments, to pay for Slothrop's education. The entire novel is in essence Slothrop's response to this childhood horror and it's consequences.
Then Franz Pökler, at the Zwölfkinder, fantasizes incest with his daughter Ilse, who is permited annual summertime visits, although Franz doubts the girl who visits is really is Ilse. Instead of acting on the fantasy, he becomes "Ilse"'s "father".
I feel that there is no problem with Pynchon's handling of these first two examples.
But then there is Bianca!
Slothrop meets Greta Erdmann, the actress, who is looking for her lost daughter, Bianca. They head for Swinemünde, where Bianca is supposedly on a boat. The Anubis arrives and Greta and Slothrop board, where they find an giant orgy. Slothrop and Greta participate. Slothrop catches sight of Bianca, who is eleven or twelve, "a knockout." Mother (Greta) and daughter (Bianca) then perform a public S/M act, with the mother fairly brutally slapping the little girl’s bottom, which Bianca seems to enjoy. Slothrop dreams about Llandudno, "where Lewis Carroll wrote that Alice in Wonderland." Bianca appears at his bedside, ready and willing. They have sex.
All very titillating and unreflective.
After sex, she asks him to escape with her: "I'm a child, I know how to hide. I can hide you too." Slothrop leaves without her and Bianca is lost again.
The only possible reflection demanded for our participation, is that later, Slothrop, when listening to Margherita's story, is overcome by nausea, but it is not even clear at what.
What is the reader to make of Slothrop and Bianca? What is the purpose/meaning/role behind Slothrop and Bianca? Or is this an example of Pynchon's "proto-fascism", as he describes some of his writings in Slow Learner?