Made You Think Podcast

May 21, 2019
Infinite Discussions: The most Credible and Incredible Theories behind Infinite Jest
Part of

Infinite Jest is a book meant to be an actively read –it’s meant to take a certain amount of work to finish it and try to figure out what’s going on. While David Foster Wallace, the author, spends words and words in beautiful descriptions, he purposefully omitted, exchanged, and told through the characters lenses parts of the story. In this episode Nat and Neil are going through some of the theories people have created to help understand the book.

We cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • Hal’s relationship with the mold and DMZ
  • Mario’s ascendance
  • References to Hamlet, 1984, and other books and authors
  • If Infinite Jest will become a film
  • A MYT classic: Aquatic Apes Theory!

And much more. Please enjoy, and be sure to grab a copy of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace!

Links from the Episode

Mentioned in the show

Books mentioned

People mentioned

0:00 – Spoiler Alert: this a commentary to Infinite Jest book. We discuss theories about those parts of the book that were left without There will be spoilers. Refer to the previous episode for more deep book review.

3:55 – Theory #1. The ghost/wraith is pretty obviously Hal’s father, the guy who made the Entertainment. He’s spirit was kind of resurrected by the radiation coming from the garbage dumped in the are he was buried. Allusions to Hamlet. JOI created Infinite Jest to take Hal out of his shell of silence. Unreliable narrators.

6:49 – Theory #2. DMZ or Madam Psychosis. The wraith steals the drug to give it to Hal via the toothbrush. Parallel with Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Hal’s experiences with the mold. He couldn’t communicate → Eats the mold → Communicates, but emotionless and stoic → Gets DMZ → Can’t talk again, but gains emotional complexity.

9:55 – Theory #3. Effects of marijuana withdrawal. Hal’s collapse and Gately’s help in the hospital. Digging up Hal’s father’s head. Connection with Gately’s vision. Hal, Gately, Joelle and John Wayne looking for the anti-Entertainment cartridge but it’s not there anymore. The suspect falls on Orin. How he new about it? Probably because of Joelle (they were dating).

13:21 – Weird theories around Avril, Hal-Orin-Mario’s mom. Apparently Avril is modeled after DFW’s mom. Theory #4. She is an A.F.R. or O.U.S. member, the secret terrorists or intelligence organizations. Affairs with John Wayne, Charles C.T. (stepbrother?).

16:10 – Theory #5. Orin, the oldest brother, fathered Mario with Avril. Avril can be the hand model. Orin doesn’t go to his father funeral. Other stories of parents abusing their sons. Who was in the car with Avril?

18:59 – Why was ghost Jim moving stuff around in the tennis academy?

19:59 – Theory #6. Why DFW uses the word wraith instead of ghost? The wraith explains to Don that it takes enormous effort for him to appear to Don: “Wraiths by and large exist (putting his arms out slowly and making little quotation-mark finger-wiggles as he said exist) in a totally different Heisenbergian dimension of rate-change and time-passage.”  Therefore, the wraith has to stand still for extremely long periods of time to appear at all to Don.

21:07 – Theory #7. Speculations that Jim ends up possessing Hal.

22:24 – Theory #8. How did DFW write the book? Did he mapped all out and then intentionally leave out specific sections so people can come up with theories? TV shows with open twists. Apparently Infinite Jest was longer.

24:53 – Theory #9. C.T. is Mario’s father.

25:23 – Theory #10. Avril and Luria are the same person. Theory #11. Orin didn’t die by the end of the book. 1984 flashbacks in the scenes with Luria.

27:08 – Mold in the basement. Mold that feeds on mold. Criticism against mold as a real thing, and more as a metaphor of the teens age difficulties.

29:33 – Theory #12. Did Hal watch the Entertainment or part of it? Doubts about how he got a copy of the movie.

31:11 – Theory #13. Hal has internally self synthesized DMZ because of the mold.

32:26 – Orin thought Joelle and Himself were lovers. Maybe that was because he didn’t want to attend his father funeral. Speculations about covering Joelle: is she disfigured or is she really so beautiful that needs to use a veil? How Joelle got acid in her face. Molly’s story. Joelle using a veil after filming Infinite Jest.

35:30 – What was the movie about? Things the reader is not allowed to know. Other DFW books. Difficulties explaining what’s the book about. Addiction and living passively.

40:00 – Would Infinite Jest make a good movie or not? Problems with Atlas Shrugged bad movie. Formats evolving after Netflix. Most of the value in Infinite Jest comes from the descriptions, not that much happens between the characters. Getting the chaotic feeling to a movie. DFW against an Infinite Jest movie. Longest books. Sierra Leone and Quebequian terrorists.

48:55 – If you enjoyed this weird episode of Made You Think, we appreciate any review on iTunes or if you share with your friends. If you didn’t like it, it’s OK, that’s an experiment, so go listen to a normal episode of the podcast. The previous episode about Infinite Jest is probably a much better introduction to the book than this episode. Find us on Twitter @TheRealNeilS and @nateliason and join the email list at Made You Think Podcast. The email list is the best way to stay up to date on future episodes and things that are going on with the show. Check out ways to support the show at