How Numbers Don’t Work

There have been plenty of posts wondering about the omnipresence of 3 and 9 in the novel. It’s fascinating but seems still unclear. I wonder, though, if the neatness of 3 and 9 is a bit of misdirect by MD. It seems significant that the both early and later in the novel we are given the paradox of zero, i..e that multiplying by zero can lead to a set of equations in which, by mathematical logic, 1=2 (see pp. 59 and 771). Meanwhile, we get other numbers that add up but don’t: Jingjing counts two sets of 5 people to get 9, so 10 =9;  Isandorno has four animal crates, but he claims to have three, so 4=3. So what do we do with this? I’m not entirely sure. I would suggest, for one, that MD keeps imploring to try to think beyond our sense of natural orders (such as time and space). We must work within paradoxes; think of the famous Schrodinger’s cat (aha!) that is both dead and alive, thus, when does something become one or the other? We can’t know how it fits into the bigger picture yet, but I’m suggesting that we have to somehow get comfortable with accepting contradictory possibilities in MD’s gigantic world.

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2 responses to “How Numbers Don’t Work”

  1. benjaminbigelow says :

    I think it is also important to look at how numbers work in the digital world, because it is so prevalent in the novel. Computers don’t start counting at one, they start counting at zero. So if we’re comparing “normal” counting to computer counting, then 1=0. This would maintain the a=a-1 ratio that seems to be recurring as a theme. If we look at it like this, then it’s not a paradox, just another symbol for the number, albeit one that confuses us in a traditional context (arguably- also a theme for the book.)

  2. keeleym4 says :

    I never took notice of the numbers 3 and 9 until I read this post. However, I did notice the paradox of zero whenever I read it and thought it was intriguing. Reading the comment above about how computer programs and numbers are connected, I’m reminding of the discussion my class had yesterday. We were talking about a lot of the blacked out lines (pages 632-634 and 655 for example) look like numbers. So if we are going with some kind of theory about the significants of numbers, it’s interesting that a lot of numbers have been covered up.

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