Publication Date

Spring 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Christopher T. White, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Rosemary Erickson Johnsen, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Kerri K. Morris, Ph.D.


Infinite Jest is a one-thousand, seventy-nine page novel and it weighs almost three pounds; it is heavy in a literal and a spiritual sense. The novel is David Foster Wallace’s greatest achievement. It portrays characters who are dramatically isolated from one another and who cannot cope without some form of addiction. This addiction manifests itself in the form of an extreme dependence on drugs and/or technology to escape reality. This thesis first discusses the effects of technology on a society that is lonely and isolated. Then, two major characters with substance abuse issues are analyzed in an effort to understand the consequences of isolation and why their addictions are central to Wallace’s literature. Lastly, this thesis explores the possibility of redemption despite isolation, addiction and a penchant for self-absorption in a society whose inhabitants have trouble relating to one another. Discussed in conjunction with redemption is Wallace’s own vision of postmodern literature. Using major and minor characters, the following pages will uncover a group of humans that must ultimately accept their flaws and create their own happy endings.