pp. 3-5: Seaman Ploy and Others

Seaman Ploy, one of the sailors at the bar, is typically tag-named (seaman/semen; ploy/plot), associated with the ongoing dental obsessions of the novel, as his teeth have been sharpened into weapons of assault after the Navy has failed in its efforts to remove them because of Ploy’s biting fetish.  The name of Profane’s old ship, the U.S.SScaffold, compared to the name of Ploy’s ship, the U.S.S. Impulsive, offers one of Pynchon’s “binaries” (between plotting/paranoia and entropy/spontaneity) that are always to be navigated by means of the “excluded middle.”  Other minor characters introduced in the bar scene include Dewey Gland and Pig Bodine, their names highlighting Pynchon’s facination with bodies and appetities; compare this to the naming of the barmaids at The Sailor’s Grave, all named “Beatrice” (Dante’s beloved) which disguises their real names as they are sailor’s wives earning some extra cash while their husbands are away at sea.  Recalling that the opening scenes of the novel are set in the mid-1950’s, the recondite gender politics evident here can be regarded as Pynchon’s satirization of mid-century American culture, where women are regarded as sacred/profane objects and men as requiring unyielding nurture from the “breast” of the bar.