The Crying of Lot 49

230

Indifference and Subjugation of Women in The Crying of Lot 49

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

Introduction

The text The Crying of Lot 49 is a book written by Thomas Pynchon the dwells on the life of an American housewife. Distinctively, the setting of the book is in the 1960s when the postal system was the main medium of communication. In the book, Oedipa is the central protagonist who is tasked with responsibility of fulfilling her first ex-husband’s will. Subsequently, Oedipa embarks on a quest to fulfill the will that leads to a discovery of a conspiracy. Notably, the experiences of the protagonist lead to her personal unearthing of the nature of the American Society. Oedipa’a quest leads to her discovery of indifference and subjugation of women in the American Society that is supported through the themes of gender chauvinism and conformity.

Indifference

Critically, indifference is a discovery made by Oedipa during her quest to fulfill the will of Pierce. As showcased in the novel, Oedipa rarely communicated with her husband on an emotional level. Likewise, the protagonist was not overly concerned with approval from her husband during her quest. Through extrapolation, Oedipa’s relationship with her husband is a reflection of indifference of women in American Society. Distinctively, Oedipa’s husband worked as a radio disc jockey and had numerous sexual encounters with teenage girls outside marriage. It is evident that Oedipa is aware of the infidelity of her husband but displays an indifferent attitude. Subsequently indifference leads to a mere comment of statutory rape by the protagonist concerning her husband’s infidelity. (Pynchon 31). Notably, the resilience and commitment shared by the protagonist as she pursues her quest can be interpreted as an initiative intended to compensate on her indifference during marriage. Distinctively, Oedipa embarks on a journey to discover the truth of the postal system in America, which subsequently destroys her marriage and other social interactions. Hence Oedipa’s marriage to Mucho is a reflection of indifference and a cavalier attitude that she became aware of during her mission to execute the will.

Next, the sexual encounter between Oedipa and her co-executor reveals indifference as a discovery made by the protagonist. Notably, as the two characters were playing Strip Boticelli, Oedipa becomes angry with her co-executor who tries to seduce her. However, despite the early reservations by the protagonist, she eventually allows the co-executor (Pynchon 27). The incident ends with Oedipa crying and her co-executor embracing the protagonist. Distinctively, the crying of Oedipa can be explained as a self-discovery process. For instance, Oedipa’s crying showcases the disappointment of the character who is cavalier and does not consider the repercussions of her actions in life. Thus Oedipa’s interaction envisions a personal discovery journey of a cavalier attitude in the protagonist.

Subjugation

Similarly, the quest by Oedipa reveals subjugation against the protagonist. As mentioned above, Oedipa leaves his current husband and embarks on the mission of fulfilling the will of Pierce. It is from this standpoint that the power of Pierce is still influential in the life of Oedipa despite his death. Consequently, the protagonists abandons her life with the ambition of executing the will and solving the mystery of the postal system. Notably, in the novel, Oedipa reveals her preference to the stillness of four walls rather than the misconceived perception of freedom (Pynchon 27). Distinctively, the sentiments shared by the protagonist reveals how the character recognizes subjugation of women in the American society.

Likewise, the inappropriate interaction between Oedipa and her psychiatrist becomes a point of self-discovery in the life of the protagonist. In the novel, Oedipa has frequent sessions with her psychiatrist. However, the relationship becomes toxic when the psychiatrist calls the protagonist at night. Moreover, the protagonist defends her fascination with the psychiatrist by stating how the sessions are beneficial (Pynchon 11). On the other hand, the psychiatrist capitalizes on the difficulties shared by Oedipa to try and run an experiment on the character. From an analytical perspective, the interaction between Oedipa and the psychiatrist depicts chauvinism and discrimination where the medical expert does not consider the well-being of the patient. Additionally, the attempt of the psychiatrist to enroll Oedipa for the LSD experiment showcases the egocentric nature of the professional. Thus the inappropriate interaction can be correlated with self-discovery where Oedipa recognizes discrimination and chauvinism against women in American society who become victims of subjugation.

Likewise, the mission to fulfill the will of Pierce enables Oedipa to correlate with domination by men in the American Society. After receiving the will, Oedipa approaches her lawyer with the intention of knowing how to best execute the directives. However, the lawyer perceives the encounter as an opportunity to sexually harass the protagonist (Pynchon 12). Critically, the experience is a path to self-discovery where the protagonist learns how chauvinism affects the perception of women in the American community. Additionally, the incident is a reflection of the indifference and complacency portrayed by women in the community. For instance, when the lawyer tries to harass the protagonist under the table, Oedipa ignores the attempt and seeks sanctuary in her boots (Pynchon 12). However, this is a copping mechanism and is a depiction of how women comply with the interest of men even if they are inappropriate. Hence, the incident becomes an essential step for self-discovery by Oedipa as she recognizes the presence of complacency, domination, and chauvinism in the society.

Lastly, the other discovery made by the protagonist in the novel is the relevance of a sense of purpose in life. Decisively, the Tristero mystery revealed how the protagonist lived a previous married life that was limited through physical and emotional isolation (Pynchon 308). Hence, the protagonist believes that by solving the mystery, she can regain purpose in life and value. Critically, a sense of purpose is important to the character as she previously lived a life of domination by men where her opinions and beliefs did not matter. Thus the unravelling of the Tristero mystery is a self-discovery process in the life of Oedipa that allows her to appreciate the importance of a sense of purpose in life.

Conclusion

Decisively, the analysis of the novel reflects various atrocities evident in the American community. As discussed above, women are faced with subjugation that is supported through conformity. Likewise indifference and complacency are traits portrayed by women, which facilitate atrocities against the gender. Critically, the analysis elicits a new perspective and mentality needed to address vices in the community and protect the welfare of women. For instance, self-discovery as showcased through the life of Oedipa is important as it enables an individual to understand limitations in life and take effective remedial strategies. Additionally, there is a need to resolve chauvinism, which often leads to domination of women that is dehumanizing. Hence, the review reveals the challenges to be addressed to guarantee the development of a fair and just American Society.

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319

We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire: Silently Awaiting Meaning in The Crying of Lot 49

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

The Crying of Lot 49’s storyline is perhaps clearly explained by Randolph Driblette telling Oedipa, “You can put together clues, develop a thesis, or several…You could waste your life that way and never touch the truth” (56). The novel may seem frustrating to some readers, presumably undergraduate English majors, to search for meaning in Oedipa’s investigation into Tristero, involving a convoluted web of real and fictional references such as Clark Maxwell’s information entropy, The Courier’s Tragedy, and Calculus’s instantaneous rate of change. The involvement of written messages, from single words and symbols to entire texts, is crucial to Oedipa’s investigation into Tristero, yet these references don’t give a definitive, stable concept of what is Tristero, but instead constantly refers to other words and texts.

Oedipa’s investigation mimics Jacques Derrida’s concept of différance. Derrida argues that language doesn’t consist of the union of signifier and signified that Structuralism postulates, but instead is just a chain of signifiers that (1) postpones, or defers, meaning and (2) meaning is just a result of the differences by which we distinguish one signifier from another, and what we take to be meaning is actually a trace left behind the chain of signifiers. And throughout the novel, Oedipa’s investigation can be seen as an emulation of this concept as she struggles to find the meaning of Tristero through WASTE and the muted post horn.

Oedipa’s first encounter with evidence of Tristero occurs when she sees the word “WASTE” and the image of a “loop, triangle, and trapezoid” inscribed on the walls in the ladies’ bathroom at The Scope (44-45). Oedipa only references these two signs as much because she’s only seen them in writing. But when she and Genghis Cohen encounter the watermark of the same symbol she saw on the wall in comparison with the Thurn and Taxis post horn, Oedipa immediately recalls the scene of Niccoló’s assassination after Cohen remarks that the watermark resembles a muted horn (90). Oedipa realizes the symbol’s meaning is actually to “mute the Thurn and Taxis post horn” (90). Afterwards, Oedipa’s interaction with Stanley Koteks at Yoyodyne about the pronunciation of WASTE not only shows the shift of meaning about also about the arbitrary and slippery nature of language as Oedipa refers to it as a word, with Koteks reprimanding her, “It’s W.A.S.T.E., lady…an acronym” (81). This acronym is revealed later on to mean “WE AWAIT SILENT TRISTERO’S EMPIRE” (127). But the meaning of W.A.S.T.E. and Tristero gets even more convoluted when she encounters the muted horn with the word DEATH, with an inscription reading “DON’T EVER ANTAGONIZE THE HORN” (90). These two events demonstrate the consequence of Oedipa viewing these symbols as words and shapes since she referenced them through writing until her interactions cause her to differentiate their meaning.

Oedipa must also make use of other texts when words and symbols aren’t enough. The first obvious text and the catalyst to Oedipa’s investigation is the letter from the law firm naming her as a co-executor of Pierce Inverarity’s will at the beginning of the novel. The meaning of why Oedipa was named co-executor of Pierce’s will, much like the already dead Pierce, fades into the background of the storyline like a “shadow,” only to return later on (2). She also searches for the original version of The Courier’s Tragedy in the plagiarized anthology Jacobean Reference Plays at Zapf’s Used Books (55). She also attempts to piece together the beginnings of Trystero by consulting “obscure philatelic journals…an ambiguous footnote in Motley’s Rise of the Dutch Republic, an 80-year-old pamphlet on the roots of modern anarchism, a book of sermons…” (119). Oedipa searches endlessly through texts, trying to pursue connections between them and finding any clues.

For the reader, Oedipa’s investigation feels like looking through a dictionary to find a definition for a word, only to be given more words that are even further defined by more words. Even Mucho’s nickname for Oedipa, “Oed,” can be seen as an abbreviation for OED, of the Oxford English Dictionary. And Oedipa feels like a living dictionary or reference, “pursuing strange words in Jacobean texts” (76). She’s even self-aware that she may never reach the true meaning of these clues, lamenting that she can “never [know] the central truth itself” (69). Her investigation into the true meaning of Tristero is fruitless, even with “the image of the muted post horn all but saturating the Bay Area” (98). Each clue is “only some kind of compensation. To make up for her having lost the direct, epileptic Word…” (87) that only informs her, “If you know what this means…you know where to find out more” (99). Yet, she always ended “back where’d she started” (97). Like a chain of signifiers, the clues in Oedipa’s investigation only refer to other clues, never reaching a definite point of meaning.

At the end of the novel, there is no resolution on whether or not Tristero exists. But it does provide some relief for Oedipa, who no longer has to search through messages and texts to find their meanings, but instead she has to identify the anonymous bidder just by “await[ing] the crying of lot 49” (138). Since language has signifiers constantly referring to one another, nothing can exist outside of language. Throughout the novel, Oedipa wanders through an endless stream of texts and trying to find meaning by making connections. It isn’t until she realizes Tristero cannot exist outside of written text that she decides to step out of its confines. And at that moment, she is perhaps closer to the truth of Tristero’s existence than any of us will ever be.

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229

Meaningless Fragments Symbolizing Meaninglessness in ‘The Crying of Lot 49’

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

In Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, standard hierarchical structures are abandoned in a setting of postmodern cultural chaos. The use of fragmented pop culture contributes to many aspects of the book, namely the sense of combined freedom in the search for meaning. Moreover, this strange mess of references and images comments on the novel’s setting. California itself is famous for its overt and excess modernity, often a step ahead in popular culture. But with this advantage comes a tendency towards meaninglessness, a lack of depth. Fragmentation illustrates this shallow sensibility by developing countless, even entertaining details with no central force or purpose. Without a unifying meaning, these fragments overwhelm, something identifiable in any aspect of contemporary life, in any region. They distract both protagonist and reader from any point. But this ambiguity is the point itself.

Pynchon maintains a distinctly modern preoccupation in his chaotic embellishments. In the tradition of Eliot and Joyce, he rebels against any one imposed structure. (Fisher, in lecture, 4/24/00) Without any hierarchy to govern the direction of the narrative, there is a renewed sense of freedom. This is highlighted by Oedipa’s lack of ties or responsibilities. She is able to simply leave her husband, wander all over California, and return when she pleases. But freedom can also create a lack of order that goes too far, a negative state of chaos with no justification. Oedipa wants to believe, as she does early on, that “…it fitted, logically, together. As if…there were revelation in progress all around her.” (30) The flaw in this seemingly innocent freedom is in its sacrifice of reason. This becomes clear as Oedipa begins searching for order as much as fun and liberation. It no longer simply arrives as a revelation, but drives her action. She becomes an agent searching for meaning when she goes to The Scope, a local bar “because it seemed that a pattern was beginning to emerge….” (71) Perhaps Oedipa cannot help her “growing obsession with ‘bringing something of herself’…to the scatter of business interests that had survived Inverarity. She would give them order, she would create constellations.” (72) Surrounded by chaos, she recognizes the necessity of this force, and assumes she can restore logic, and thus meaning.

The desire to create a link among scattered information is foreign to the world in which Oedipa is operating, and therefore quite difficult. The first sign of trouble could be that “Much of the revelation was to come through [a] stamp collection…thousands of little colored windows into deep vistas of space and time: savannahs teeming with elands and gazelles, galleons sailing west into the void, Hitler heads, sunsets, cedars of Lebanon, allegorical faces that never were…” (30) This conglomeration of useless, antiquated images is a perfect metaphor for the fragmentation of pop culture in California’s strange post-modernity. It is a fitting illustration of the stage upon which our protagonist attempts to find conspiracy. With image upon detailed image piling into a strangely poetic list, this imagery overwhelms the reader. But after the rapture of its possible significance is passed, one cannot help wondering, as Oedipa does “…whether, at the end of this (if it were supposed to end), she too might not be left with only compiled memories of clues, announcements, intimations, but never the central truth itself, which must somehow each time be too bright for her memory to hold.” (76) This is essentially the question asked by the ambush of pop culture. The story moves forward only because of Oedipa’s deep desire to find something unifying in the great amount of information she absorbs every day.

The concept of sensory overload, of too much information, is a distinctly modern idea. Industry and technology move too fast, inspiring transitory culture without any anchor. This idea is alluded to often, as with “radios playing songs in the lower stretches of the Top 200, that would never become popular, whose melodies and lyrics would perish as if they had never been sung.” (99) In such a state of constant bombardment, one must project their own desires onto the cultural landscape, creating a link that makes their world seem less intimidating and temporary. Oedipa does this with her conspiracy notion. One night, she wanders into the city, the ultimate modern landscape, with the hope that “Each clue that comes is supposed to have its own clarity, its fine chances for permanence.” (95) Separately, the range of “clues” she comes across are lush vignettes of modern life. There is “a drifting, dreamy cloud of delinquents in summer-weight gang jackets with the post horn stitched on in thread that looked pure silver,” (98) and “an exhausted busful of Negroes going on to graveyard shifts all over the city,…scratched on the back of a seat, shining for her in the brilliant smoky interior, the post horn.” (98) The language in these passages makes very clear distinctions. The fragments of reality ­ the delinquents, the sad state of the Negroes ­ are bleak in comparison to the symbol that stands out so brilliantly within them. In the face of so much frustration, Pynchon creates an actual visual connection for Oedipa to cling to.

The deep, subliminal need to link familiar fragments together betrays a great deal about the effect of constant fragmentation on the human soul. Oedipa begins looking for a human connection in all her desire for order. Her loneliness is a result of her environment, as is her constant need to dull it. The postmodern state creates lives like the ones Oedipa sees that night. The similarity between these observations is the absolute loneliness and sadness in the language. This is hardly a unifying connection. How can she help but search for control, moreover security, in a world that creates the “aging night-watchman, nibbling at a bar of Ivory Soap, who had trained his virtuoso stomach to accept also lotions, air-fresheners, fabrics, tobaccoes and waxes in a hopeless attempt to assimilate it all, all the promise, productivity, betrayal, ulcers, before it was too late?” (100) The sacrifices in “democratizing language” (Fisher, in lecture, 4/24/00) through fragmentation are not worth this barrage. Oedipa becomes more lonely than liberated by her freedom of association.

Oedipa’s need for deep human connection is a symptom of her increasing isolation. She turns to men time and time again in her search. In her first meeting with Metzger, she has a confidence and even playfulness in her sexuality. But even her agreement to sleep with him comes in a moment of distraction, fragmentation: “‘What do you want to bet, then’ She knew. Stubborn, they watched each other’s eyes for what seemed five minutes. She heard commercials chasing one another into and out of the speaker of the TV. She grew more and more angry, perhaps juiced, perhaps only impatient for the movie to come back on. ?Fine then…it’s a bet. Whatever you’d like.” (23) She clearly cares about this decision, as one of her few moments of emotion comes when she asks what Inverarity has told Metzger about her. Metzger responds “That you wouldn’t be easy,” and Oedipa “[begins] to cry.” (30) Her dependence on men is not simply about physical desire. This becomes more clear as she goes deeper into her quest. And as her independence continues, her self-awareness expands, making her able to comment on her own growing emptiness. When she learns of Driblette’s suicide, an interesting distinction in her character development is made.

The problem is that the men she is looking for are themselves fragments of pop culture, and caught up in the California surroundings that continue to send her to them.

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168

seems singing by paranoids has meaning in communication

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

Despite the fact that The Crying of Lot 49 is chock-full of the use of methods of communication, the only time when anything is actually communicated is when a few songs are sung by The Paranoids. Any letters mentioned in the novel are void of meaning; relationships tend to be self-indulgent and superficial; even radio broadcasts are phony. Moreover, of the few songs that are not sung by the Paranoids, none have any substantial meaning either. Overall, unless stated or utilized by a member of the band, no form of communication possesses the slightest trace of an actual desire to communicate.

The first time one sees meaning in communication is immediately before Oedipa and Metzger have sex – yet another form of exchange void of substance – when the Paranoids are singing outside their bedroom window. The song immediately has some sort of meaning because it tells a story: A man longs for the woman he loves, but knows he cannot go to her – “As I lie…and you lie alone tonight…how can I come to you” (Pynchon, Thomas. The Crying of Lot 49. New York: HarperPerennial, 1999. 27). It may sound like a rather blas, overdone theme for a song; yet, compared to anything that has appeared in the novel before it, it is monumental in honesty and emotion. So far, the only other forms of communication have been shellacked with grandiose, Time Warner effects. For example, the entire book begins with Oedipa Maas being named executrix of an eccentric multi-millionaire’s will. Then, she visits his lawyer who studies nothing else but Perry Mason television episodes, the father of the concocted, kitschy detective drama. Finally, she drives to San Narciso, a city paved with prefabricated, Vegas-esque buildings and billboards, to find the coexecutor, Metzger. Something this fantastic could only occur in a Hollywood B-movie! Therefore, is not this song the first “true” thing she encounters, the first expression of substance?

The next major song by The Paranoids does not occur till the end of the novel; yet, prior to that, a few other forms of empty communication show up. First, while slumming around a bar called The Scope, Oedipa encounters Mike Fallopian who receives a letter via the underground postal service. He tells the reader (and Oedipa) in advance that the note will be garbage by explaining how “each member has to send at least one letter a week through the Yoyodyne system” (39); if they don’t, they’re fined. Therefore, one cannot expect a mandatory letter, like the one Fallopian opens, to have any sort of value. In fact, all it says is, “Dear Mike, … how are you? Just thought I’d drop you a note. How’s your book coming? Guess that’s all for now. See you at The Scope” (39). No one could possibly argue that the letter is of any consequence or that it presents any sort of meaning to its reader. Even the implication that the author of the letter wants to know how Mike’s book is doing is purely empty, for one has no doubt that he, in reality, doesn’t give a damn about it. Therefore, here is a perfect example of using a common form of communication to communicate nothing.

The next time there is a reasonably relative exchange of ideas between people is during Oedipa’s visit to the Yoyodyne stockholders’ meeting. While she’s there, the corporate stockholders sing two songs in praise of their beloved Yoyodyne. Normally, one would think that such a jubilant expression of loyalty would be expressed through meaningful, heart-felt words. Even my thesis would imply that, as they are singing songs, there should be honesty and emotion present. However, these little ditties were written by the corporate world. They, like the required Yoyodyne mailing system, are mandatory expressions churned out robotically no matter how many Vaseline-slick smiles one has singing them. The lyrics themselves seem to aureate hollow and capitalistic California ideals “Pink pavilions bravely shining,/ Palm trees tall and true” (65) and “Yoyodyne… Contracts flee thee yet./ DOD has shafted thee,/ Out of spite, I’ll bet” (66). Not only do the words lack worthwhile meaning, but they also show how jaded and corrupt the people singing them must be. Of course, if these people are like every first grader pledging allegiance to the flag, by now the words have become so heavily etched into their minds that they don’t even think about them when they’re reciting them, making even the act of singing insincere and rehearsed. Therefore, the only thing these two songs communicate is a lack of emotion.

Finally, after Oedipa has brushed with death thanks to Dr. Hilarious, she reunites with her husband, Mucho, in the back of his radio truck. One would presume that, as a couple, they would have the most honest forms of communication in the entire novel; yet, somehow, at this moment they manage to present one of the coldest and obscure relationships. She enters the truck greeted by a soundless smile from him, being told to “be herself” before having a microphone thrust in front of her. A couple of weeks, maybe closer to a month, without seeing her husband, and all Oedipa gets is a mic thrown in her face. Moreover, after receiving her comments on the rather mind-boggling events that just occurred in Dr. Hilarious’s office, Mucho bastardizes her name into Edna Mosh, saying that he “was allowing for the distortion on these rigs, and then when they put it on tape” (114), so it will come out clear in the final broadcast. In essence, he asks her to be herself only to document her as someone entirely different before sending it off to be regarded as fact by the rest of the world. If that’s not screwing with the veracity of communication, I don’t know what is.

The last major form of honest interaction between people occurs when Oedipa returns to Echo Courts and sees The Paranoids again. At this point, one of the band members, Serge, sings a song about how his girlfriend left him for an older man, and how he is now patrolling the schoolyards for a new female companion “For me, my baby was a woman/ For him she’s just another nymphet/ Why did they run around … As long as she’s gone away … I’ve had to find somebody new … I had a date last night with an eight-year-old” (120-121). Out of all the moments in the novel, this one seems to be the most painfully real and true. Here is Serge, obviously broken by the fact that someone whom he believed he loved has ditched him for a smooth-talking Humbert Humbert wannabe, singing his heart out in hope that his lyrics will consol him; for, in fact, there is no eight-year-old “groovy” replacement in his life. He is the only character, therefore, to really feel regret and loss, believe he experienced the emotion of love, and have the gusto to communicate it to the rest of the world. Overall, it is simply the one time, save possibly the first Paranoids song, where a form of communication actually communicates anything.

In essence, the entire novel displays how communication does not function. Perhaps the only reason Pynchon even gives The Paranoids a few moments of honest, expressible emotion is that he wants to show that the future generations have the hope of not being as jaded as the present one, allowing for the possibility for communication to reestablish itself truly in a society. Overall, though, regardless of Pynchon’s reasons for having The Paranoids be the tool, The Crying of Lot 49 only has people expressing meaning to each other when the band is singing.

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357

Fragmentation in The Crying of Lot 49

July 30, 2019 by Essay Writer

In Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, standard hierarchical structures are abandoned in a setting of postmodern cultural chaos. The use of fragmented pop culture contributes to many aspects of the book, namely the sense of combined freedom in the search for meaning. Moreover, this strange mess of references and images comments on the novel’s setting. California itself is famous for its overt and excess modernity, often a step ahead in popular culture. But with this advantage comes a tendency towards meaninglessness, a lack of depth. Fragmentation illustrates this shallow sensibility by developing countless, even entertaining details with no central force or purpose. Without a unifying meaning, these fragments overwhelm, something identifiable in any aspect of contemporary life, in any region. They distract both protagonist and reader from any point. But this ambiguity is the point itself.Pynchon maintains a distinctly modern preoccupation in his chaotic embellishments. In the tradition of Eliot and Joyce, he rebels against any one imposed structure. (Fisher, in lecture, 4/24/00) Without any hierarchy to govern the direction of the narrative, there is a renewed sense of freedom. This is highlighted by Oedipa’s lack of ties or responsibilities. She is able to simply leave her husband, wander all over California, and return when she pleases. But freedom can also create a lack of order that goes too far, a negative state of chaos with no justification. Oedipa wants to believe, as she does early on, that “…it fitted, logically, together. As if…there were revelation in progress all around her.” (30) The flaw in this seemingly innocent freedom is in its sacrifice of reason. This becomes clear as Oedipa begins searching for order as much as fun and liberation. It no longer simply arrives as a revelation, but drives her action. She becomes an agent searching for meaning when she goes to The Scope, a local bar “because it seemed that a pattern was beginning to emerge….” (71) Perhaps Oedipa cannot help her “growing obsession with Œbringing something of herself’…to the scatter of business interests that had survived Inverarity. She would give them order, she would create constellations.” (72) Surrounded by chaos, she recognizes the necessity of this force, and assumes she can restore logic, and thus meaning.The desire to create a link among scattered information is foreign to the world in which Oedipa is operating, and therefore quite difficult. The first sign of trouble could be that “Much of the revelation was to come through [a] stamp collection…thousands of little colored windows into deep vistas of space and time: savannahs teeming with elands and gazelles, galleons sailing west into the void, Hitler heads, sunsets, cedars of Lebanon, allegorical faces that never were…” (30) This conglomeration of useless, antiquated images is a perfect metaphor for the fragmentation of pop culture in California’s strange post-modernity. It is a fitting illustration of the stage upon which our protagonist attempts to find conspiracy. With image upon detailed image piling into a strangely poetic list, this imagery overwhelms the reader. But after the rapture of its possible significance is passed, one cannot help wondering, as Oedipa does “…whether, at the end of this (if it were supposed to end), she too might not be left with only compiled memories of clues, announcements, intimations, but never the central truth itself, which must somehow each time be too bright for her memory to hold.” (76) This is essentially the question asked by the ambush of pop culture. The story moves forward only because of Oedipa’s deep desire to find something unifying in the great amount of information she absorbs every day.The concept of sensory overload, of too much information, is a distinctly modern idea. Industry and technology move too fast, inspiring transitory culture without any anchor. This idea is alluded to often, as with “radios playing songs in the lower stretches of the Top 200, that would never become popular, whose melodies and lyrics would perish as if they had never been sung.” (99) In such a state of constant bombardment, one must project their own desires onto the cultural landscape, creating a link that makes their world seem less intimidating and temporary. Oedipa does this with her conspiracy notion. One night, she wanders into the city, the ultimate modern landscape, with the hope that “Each clue that comes is supposed to have its own clarity, its fine chances for permanence.” (95) Separately, the range of “clues” she comes across are lush vignettes of modern life. There is “a drifting, dreamy cloud of delinquents in summer-weight gang jackets with the post horn stitched on in thread that looked pure silver,” (98) and “an exhausted busful of Negroes going on to graveyard shifts all over the city,…scratched on the back of a seat, shining for her in the brilliant smoky interior, the post horn.” (98) The language in these passages makes very clear distinctions. The fragments of reality ­ the delinquents, the sad state of the Negroes ­ are bleak in comparison to the symbol that stands out so brilliantly within them. In the face of so much frustration, Pynchon creates an actual visual connection for Oedipa to cling to.The deep, subliminal need to link familiar fragments together betrays a great deal about the effect of constant fragmentation on the human soul. Oedipa begins looking for a human connection in all her desire for order. Her loneliness is a result of her environment, as is her constant need to dull it. The postmodern state creates lives like the ones Oedipa sees that night. The similarity between these observations is the absolute loneliness and sadness in the language. This is hardly a unifying connection. How can she help but search for control, moreover security, in a world that creates the “aging night-watchman, nibbling at a bar of Ivory Soap, who had trained his virtuoso stomach to accept also lotions, air-fresheners, fabrics, tobaccoes and waxes in a hopeless attempt to assimilate it all, all the promise, productivity, betrayal, ulcers, before it was too late?” (100) The sacrifices in “democratizing language” (Fisher, in lecture, 4/24/00) through fragmentation are not worth this barrage. Oedipa becomes more lonely than liberated by her freedom of association.Oedipa’s need for deep human connection is a symptom of her increasing isolation. She turns to men time and time again in her search. In her first meeting with Metzger, she has a confidence and even playfulness in her sexuality. But even her agreement to sleep with him comes in a moment of distraction, fragmentation: “‘What do you want to bet, then’ She knew. Stubborn, they watched each other’s eyes for what seemed five minutes. She heard commercials chasing one another into and out of the speaker of the TV. She grew more and more angry, perhaps juiced, perhaps only impatient for the movie to come back on. ŒFine then…it’s a bet. Whatever you’d like.” (23) She clearly cares about this decision, as one of her few moments of emotion comes when she asks what Inverarity has told Metzger about her. Metzger responds “That you wouldn’t be easy,” and Oedipa “[begins] to cry.” (30) Her dependence on men is not simply about physical desire. This becomes more clear as she goes deeper into her quest. And as her independence continues, her self-awareness expands, making her able to comment on her own growing emptiness. When she learns of Driblette’s suicide, an interesting distinction in her character development is made.The problem is that the men she is looking for are themselves fragments of pop culture, and caught up in the California surroundings that continue to send her to them.

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424

Entropy, Maxwell’s Demon and the Crying of Lot 49

June 25, 2019 by Essay Writer

When reading Pynchon’s “The Crying of Lot 49” one is flooded with a deluge of historical references (dates, places, events) and, unless a historical genius, probably feels confused as to the historical accuracy of such references. As critics have shown, Pynchon blends factual history with fiction and manages, as David Seed writes in “The Fictional Labyrinths of Thomas Pynchon,” to “juxtapose(s) historical references with reminders of the novel’s status as artefact so that the reader’s sense of history and of fiction are brought into maximum confrontation” (128). Pynchon, for example, in “Lot 49” speaks at length about Maxwell’s Demon, a machine proposed in 1871 by physicist James Clerk Maxwell which, theoretically, could defy the Second Law of Thermodynamics by producing energy in a system without putting any energy into that system. Although the basic idea of the machine provides a neat metaphor for Oedipa’s own project, ironically it is the historical event that Pynchon chooses not to reference that truly illuminates Oedipa’s quest. This “unnamed historical reference” is the fact that Maxwell’s Demon, and the way it operated, was eventually shown to be a fraud. The scientific explanation for why Maxwell’s Demon doesn’t work parallels and adumbrates Oedipa’s own inability to sort through and make sense of the information she is given.On a surface level, Maxwell’s Demon and Oedipa share, metaphorically, similar projects. As Pynchon explains, “The Demon could sit in a box among air molecules that were moving at all different random speeds, and sort out the fast molecules from the slow ones” (68). Oedipa, similarly, is forced to “sort” the various clues she’s given concerning Iverarity’s estate, Trystero and W.A.S.T.E. Pynchon repeatedly uses the image of “sorting” or “shuffling” to describe Oedipa’s project. At the beginning of the novel we learn that she has been given the job of “sorting it (Pierce’s estate) all out” (1) which she attempts to accomplish by “shuffling back through a fat deckful of days” (2). The Demon sorts molecules and thus gains information about them, which in turns allows it to create order among chaos. Oedipa, similarly, seeks to act as a “dark machine in the center of the planetarium, to bring the estate into pulsing stelliferous Meaning” (64) (Mangel 90: 1971). The comparison couldn’t be more obvious; Oedipa as “machine,” “sorting” clues, gaining information, discovering patterns and order and, ultimately, a “Meaning.” This metaphoric parallel becomes weak, however, when we realize that as Oedipa probes deeper into the issues, “other revelations…seemed to come crowding in exponentially, as if the more she collected the more would come to her,”(64). Oedipa becomes unable to accurately mimic Maxwell’s Demon; she simply cannot sort through all of the clues, nor can she place the “truthful” ones on one side and the “false” ones on the other. This inability stems not only from the copious amount of information she receives but the ultimately unknowable (and, as we shall see, distorted) nature of such “clues;” Oedipa can never truly know if a clue is “true” or “false.” Nonetheless, the other side of Maxwell’s Demon, the side Pynchon chooses not to explicitly elaborate, is the fact that, like Oedipa, Maxwell’s Demon was also never able to accomplish it’s task of “sorting”. Two physicists, Leo Szilarad and Leon Brillouin, have shown that Maxwell’s Demon was pure fiction. Szilarad wrote that, “any action resulting in a decrease in the entropy of a system must be preceded by an operation of acquiring information, which in turn is coupled with the production of an equal or greater amount of entropy” (Mangel 91: 1971). Brillouin echoed such thoughts, writing that “an intelligent being…has to cause an increase of entropy before it can effect a reduction by a smaller amount,” an increase which is caused by the “process of perception” which determines which molecules are faster or slower than others (Mangel 91: 1971). Entropy, in short, is the amount of disorder in a given system. Thus in layman’s terms, Maxwell’s Demon can never work because the amount of entropy which you need to accurately “perceive” and “sort” the molecules will always be greater than the amount of entropy you reduce in sorting such molecules. Thus the way in which Maxwell’s Demon is dysfunctional is metaphorically akin to the manner in which Oedipa comes to be dysfunctional, in two primary ways. First, as was mentioned earlier, Oedipa, as the novel progresses, is bombarded with information, clues and signals. One clue leads to another that leads to a hundred more; the amount always building “exponentially” in a variety of different directions. Pynchon tells us, “This night’s profusion of post horns, this malignant, deliberate replication, was their way of beating up. They knew her pressure points, and the ganglia of her optimism, and one by one, pinch by precision pinch, they were immobilizing her” (101). The image of “immobilization” reinforces the idea that the more information you gain about a system (i.e. the Trystero) and the way in which it can be ordered and systematized, the more disorder you actually produce, and hence, the more immobilized and helpless you feel. In “gaining information” about the Trystero/estate/ W.A.S.T.E., Oedipa ostensibly effects a “decrease in entropy” (or, an increase in order), but in the end, such information only causes Oedipa, like Maxwell’s Demon would, to produce “an equal or greater amount of entropy” (or, an increase in Oedipa’s own confusion). Oedipa’s own worries and concerns also reflect her metaphorical relation to the dysfunctional nature of Maxwell’s Demon. She begins, for example, to believe that “she might not be left with only compiled memories of clues, announcements, intimations, but never the central truth itself, which must somehow each time be too bright for her memory to hold; which must always blaze out, destroying its own message irreversibly” (76). She senses the impossibility of her task, the paradox of it, the fact that the more she knows, the more she becomes confused, the more she tries to order, the more disorder there is, the more the “message” destroy itself “irreversibly.” Note moreover that entropy, or disorder, increases not only for Oedipa the “investigator” but for Oedipa the “sane human being” as well. She begins to lose the ability not merely to “sort” clues, but to “sort the…real and dreamed” (95). Again, as information mounts which should lead to order (i.e. Oedipa figuring out the meaning of the Trystero and returning home), it results instead in increased disorder (Oedipa going mildly insane).The second way in which Oedipa’s experience mimics the dysfunctional nature of Maxwell’s Demon is seen in the fact that as the novel progresses, and the information which Oedipa receives builds, the words and symbols used to convey such information often become distorted and lose their ability to effectively transmit meaning. For example, consider the word “Trystero.” Oedipa first hears it during the performance of “The Courier’s Tragedy,” “No hallowed skein of stars can word, I trow/Who’s once been set his tryst with Trystero” (58). But when she seeks out the textual version (s) of the play she finds a variety of different words that have taken “Trystero’s” place. In one version it becomes, “No hallowed skein of stars can ward, I trow/Who once has crossed the lusts of Angelo” (81) while in another, “No hallowed skein of stars can ward, I trow/This tryst or odious awry, O Niccolo” (116). Even later she comes up a group of girls skipping rope and singing “Tristoe, Tristoe, one, two, three, Turning taxi from across the sea” (96). Thus Trystero exists simultaneous as “tristoe,” “Angelo” and “O Niccolo.” As Oedipa gets more clues as to what the “Trystero” is, or where that word should appear, as more “information” enters her “system,” we find that such information is often distorted. So, instead of decreasing entropy, this distorted information only increases disorder, and, in turn, creates that much more work for Oedipa in following up on each “distortion.”In the same way, the muted horn symbol comes to be associated with a variety of different peoples and meanings. It originally appears next to the letters W.A.S.T.E., but is later seen with the acronym “D.E.A.T.H.” (98) as well as with Alameda County Death Cult (ACDC) (99). The image is everywhere, “saturating the Bay Area” (107). As the critic Anne Mangel put it, “Such symbols continually seduce by suggesting information and meaning, yet they never reveal it. As codes and signals actually work to destroy information, they begin to emerge as something sinister” (97). That which is sinister, of course, is an increase in disorder, in entropy. The muted horn symbol, like the word “Trystero,” functions as a form of “distorted information.” Put simply, as Oedipa receives more and more clues, such clues often become slightly distorted or changed. Such changes, in turn, prevent Oedipa from being able to accurately “sort” them. That is, she is unable to gain the information, because of the distortion, that she needs in order to accurately sort them. The energy she expends on trying to “perceive” these various distorted clues outweighs the potential order or knowledge she can gain, which in turn, leads only to more disorder.In conclusion, “Lot 49” is a book, as was pointed out in section, filled with “red herrings” and must be thought of as a giant “red herring” itself. I wouldn’t dispute such an argument, but would seek to point out that the way in which Maxwell’s Demon is dysfunctional parallels the way in which Oedipa is unable to “work.” More importantly, however, the metaphor of the dysfunctional Demon applies to us as readers when we fail to realize, as was said, that “Lot 49” is one big “red herring.” That is, when we as readers choose one “red herring” as the ultimate meaning for “Lot 49” we begin to become dysfunctional in relation to the text, just as Maxwell’s Demon does, and instead of finding order and meaning in the text serve only to increase our own disorder and misunderstanding. Additional resources: Mangel, Anne “Maxwell’s Demon, Entropy, Information: The Crying of Lot 49” in Mindful Pleasures: Essays on Thomas Pynchon, 1976: Boston. Seed, David The Fictional Labyrinths of Thomas Pynchon 1988: Iowa City.

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456

Symbols and Meaning in The Crying of Lot 49

April 29, 2019 by Essay Writer

Although the postmodern classic The Crying of Lot 49 is known for its obscurity and lack of a single interpretation, it should not be seen as an experiment in a tortured narrative of curve-balls that destroys the reader’s assumptions without leaving anything in place. Rather, its very indefinite structure is part of the novel’s meaning, the writing medium carrying the message more than the book’s content or plot. We can gain insight into what Pynchon is trying to accomplish by considering the “sunrise over the library slope at Cornell University that nobody out on it had seen because the slope faces west” (p.1). Here the old epistemological problem, the zen koan of a tree falling out of earshot, cues us into a discussion of our relation to reality. Rather than arguing extreme objectivity (the sun rises regardless of an observer) or subjectivity (there is no sunrise for the student stuck in the library), the novel will argue a middle path: sunrise is a process of an observer watching the sun. When Oedipa watches the circuit of houses from a San Narcisco slope, she sees the limitless possibilities of what she can see – “There’s seemed no limit to what the printed circuit could have told her (if she tried to find out)” (p. 14). Both the sun and the city are covered by clouds and haze, breaking her “religious instant”, suggesting that the towers of isolation suburban life brings prevent the process of communication. This tells us that Oedipa’s calling in the novel is toward communication, in the larger meaning of the word as information interchange, between human beings and the world at large. Communication is accomplished through symbols (information), but the symbols themselves are ambiguous and the act of interpreting them is more important than deriving their source, meaning, or purpose. The symbols of “concealed meaning, of an intent to communicate” that Oedipa tries to divine in maps, circuits, and later books, are mysterious, holding infinite promise in their very secrecy.1

It is limited to see the novel as a ridicule of suburban life; rather the suburban towers enclosing Oedipa point to the larger problem of isolation that all human beings face. The danger of retreating into solipsism can only be balanced by listening and believing in other human beings and the world itself. Oedipa’s men struggle with the same issues, but often get bogged down by drug use, media, and hallucinations. Still most of them have less trouble interpreting symbols than Oedipa, who keeps retreating to limited logic and insistence on objectivity. Paranoia – seeing connections that are not there – is familiar to most characters who have no trouble making infinite connections in the symbolic world. Even predestined events like the plot of a film are appreciated each time anew. Oedipa sees no point in betting on the outcome of a film with Metzger, but he remids her that she hasn’t seen it yet – it’s new to her. This again underscores the emphasis on interpretation – Metzger’s film sits uselessly in a Hollywood vault until someone tries to watch it. Oedipa is stuck in her binary logic: either the film has a happy ending or a bad one, either the plot is predestined or waiting to unfurl, either she is mad or Tristero is real. Her salvation must lie in not ignoring the excluded middle – the only way to interpret the world to full capacity.

The issue of symbolic communication naturally affects the text itself: how can the author effectively communicate his intention to the reader? A linear plot would not work; neither is an ending necessary when the theme relies on process rather than tautology. The names of characters are natural signifiers, giving us two choices of interpretation: the metaphorical or literal. Literal implies the name is real or common; metaphorical implies one symbol pointing to another – a one-to-one mapping. The Duke kisses the image of Saint Narcissus and Mucho “enigmatically” sings “I Want to Kiss Your Feet”. Do we solve the enigma by saying Mucho is the Duke in The Courier’s Tragedy (after all, the play has a “bizarre resemblance” to what happens in the novel)? The text warns us of this danger: “Heretofore the naming of names has gone on either literally or as metaphor. But now… a new mode of expression takes over. It can only be called a kind of ritual reluctance” (p. 55). Just as Oedipa must transgress either/or choices, so must the novel replace the literal/metaphorical interpretation of names (and symbols) by something in between. The text has no choice but to give names to characters (ritual reluctance), but nothing more will be implied than the reader chooses to imply (new mode of expression). The novel doesn’t allow easy substitutions; its allusive qualities are only meant to tantalize the reader into trying to solve the mystery, as if by calling Oedipa Oedipus or reversing the letters of KCUF, we can get what the plot is really trying to tell us. But no such solutions are available to us. If we try to look up the etymology of Tristero we only get bogged deeper into the mystery, and that is part of the point – not solutions, but the process of solving the detective mystery; seeing connections that may not be there but hold the book together. Pynchon has said that in writing Crying he forgot most of what he learned up to that time.2 This may suggest he was breaking away both from linear plots and allusions/metaphors; this is as much his journey of words and symbols as Oedipa’s. This interpretation is supported by Driblette’s comments on the play, “It isn’t literature, it doesn’t mean anything” (p. 60). Of course the play is literature – it’s part of the novel – but does it mean anything in the novel? We are warned not to take words seriously: “You guys, you’re like Puritans are about the Bible. So hung up with words, words. You know where the play exists, not in that file cabinet, not in any paperback you’re looking for, but [the head]” (p. 62). Some pages back, the play alluded to the Puritans, but we are told it was “a useless gesture since none of them ever went to plays” (p. 53). The novel is asking us to consider the good of metaphors or words themselves without an audience. Placing too much emphasis on choices of words and intended meanings leaves the reader and his interpretation behind, forgetting that he/she gives the “spirit flesh”.

We may wonder why “communication is key” if intended meanings are ignored and certainty is hard to come by. Part of the answer lies in entropy: communication is the loophole in the Maxwell’s Demon thought experiment that allows for order and coherence to emerge in a disintegrating system. The demon absorbs information while sorting molecules, which offsets the loss in entropy he is trying to accomplish. The “sensitives” feed back energy by communicating information. Sharing information is therefore equivalent to reestablishing order. Mucho is described as “sensitive”, as are other characters, while Oedipa is desperately trying to communicate. The more one is willing to share, receive/transmit, and interpret information, the bigger the network of connections can be established. This network is the “tapestry was the world” that holds everything together; indeed there is nothing outside of this tapestry because consciousness is equivalent to processing information. The link between world/word is evident enough when we consider that the process of reading is much like experience; Oedipa’s world and personality is communicated to us through the text. Oedipa’s duty (and the reader’s as well) is to unfurl her hair, weave the tapestry far beyond the ivory tower of her isolation. Simply observing is already a start; Oedipa tries to “‘bring something of herself’—even if that something was just her presence” (p. 72). Before she wonders throughout the Bay Area, searching for meaning, she begins to realize that the “repetition of symbols was to be enough… she was meant to remember”. As she gropes through the mysterious world around her, she allows the symbols to pass through her, but she must also act and get tangled in the mystery, forming her own connections. Her mind can not be a “pool table”; she must leave her binary logic in order to see the forgotten stories and memories of the street people in the Bay. The memories of everyone who has passed away still hangs in the whirlwind, just as the bones of American troops killed in an isolated part of the world are breathed by the living world through a filter. Oedipa must remember their story even if it is unheard. Like Whafinger’s play, the lives of the past keep affecting us and our duty is only to recognize the excluded middle. That is not only Oedipa’s journey but the reader’s as well as we project Oedipa’s world in our own planaterium.

Notes

1) Pynchon links the obscure word “hierophany” (p. 20) with the secrecy of symbols. It was originally coined in Micea Eliade’s The Sacred and the Profane:

“Man becomes aware of the sacred because it manifest itself, shows itself, as something wholly different from the profane. To designate the act of manifestation of the sacred, we have proposed the term hierophany. It is a fitting term because it does not imply anything further; it expresses no more than is implicit in its etymological content, i.e., that something sacred shows itself to us… From the most elementary hierophany… to the supreme hierophany… there is no solution of continuity. In each case we are confronted by the same mysterious act—the manifestation of something of a wholly different order, a reality that does not belong to our world, in objects that are an integral part of our natural ‘profane’ world.” [emphasis added].

The term is fitting because it implies the experience of something other-worldly without regard to reality or meaning. The experience comes from some odd connection in the objects of our ‘profane’, day-to-day world and that connection solely implies an alternative reality that Oedipa is meant to experience. The religious origin of the word suggests a reason for the religious imagery in the novel – interpreting symbols of the unknown realm in our world or beyond is revelatory.

[Source: Grant, J. Kerry. A Companion to The Crying of Lot 49. Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1994.]

2) See Introduction in Slow Learner. [Source: Pynchon, Thomas. Slow Learner. Boston: Little, Brown, 1984.]

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330

The Crying of Lot 49 and Chaos

January 24, 2019 by Essay Writer

A recurring theme that can be found in Thomas Pynchon’s novel The Crying of Lot 49 is the conception that chaos has a tremendous effect on society. Pynchon engages in a dualistic method of literary technique to engender the realization of the effect that chaos has on the world. Just as the character Oedipa must read through a series of confusing clues to decipher reality, so must the reader work through seemingly impenetrable mysteries to arrive at meaning in the novel. In essence, then, to fully understand the meaning of Pynchon’s novel a reader must do exactly what Pierce Inverarity advises Oedipa to do; namely to keep juggling the massive reception of information in order to stave off entropy while deciphering the meaningful clues from the meaningless ones. Pynchon’s protagonist, Oedipa Mass, spends the novel engaged in the pursuit of clues or else debating whether she should involve herself in the mysteries that surround her. As coexecutrix of Pierce’s estate, Oedipa takes off on an odyssey through various California towns to unlock the total repercussions involved in Inverarity’s bequest. The novel returns to the idea of Newtonian forces such as action and reaction through the idea that Inverarity still manages to be a moving force despite being in a state of total entropy through the unfortunate outcome of being a corpse. Oedipa’s exploration for the truth is not simply physical, however, as it might be in a mere mystery or detective story, but it is also metaphysical. Oedipa’s rationale in the novel goes beyond merely executing another’s will; she is determined to uncover some sort of overwhelming meaning to a life that seems besieged by the constant attack one humanity’s perceptive abilities by manipulating them with drugs or distracting them with media images. On one level Oedipa’s attempt to untangle this morass of information is analogous to the Demon. The Demon is capable of undoing the law of entropy by manufacturing a “staggering set of energies” that are produced by destroying “massive complex of information” (84 -85). In order for Oedipa to realize Pierce’s advice to “keep it bouncing”, she must learn to do what the Demon does. Maxwell’s Demon may is the symbol that connects thermodynamics to information flow, but it can act as both a truth and a lie “depending where you were: inside, safe, or outside, lost” (105). The lesson Oedipa learns from this machine and her experience in translating the hieroglyphs is that she must somehow create connections in order to keep it all bouncing and avoid giving in to entropy. Oedipa’s quest is therefore not only to make sense of the seemingly senseless world around her, but in doing so arrive at an understanding of herself. The translation of those hieroglyphs acts as another metaphor toward this. When she undertakes this act of translation, Oedipa arrives at an importance understanding of herself; that her obsession with finding meaning is “bringing something of herself” (90) to that activity. What happens to Oedipa is that she commits a fearless act that few dare try. Rather than mindlessly giving herself over to unquestioned assimilation into the system or taking the route of near-mad solipsistic insistence that everything is a conception of her own consciousness, she confronts the uneasy choice that to keep moving on and avoid entropy requires the effort of constantly deciphering clues and mysteries. Oedipa begins the novel as just another American deadened by the corporate consumption of the soul. Like most others, her existence is one that depends on handing over control of one’s self to the determining powers that be. It is only when confronted with a mystery that burns too brightly within her natural curiosity that she is able to push forward and retrieve enough sense of wonder to do something. What Inverarity is telling Oedipa when he tells her to “keep it bouncing” is that she must address the influx of information and keep them always in the air as a way to arrive at meaning and understanding. Oedipa’s journey in search of a meaning is therefore meant to be viewed as a metaphysical expedition as well as a more prosaic quest. Oedipa’s pursuit of meaning engages an American society that is revealed to be alienated and confused. The novel portrays America as an heir to an enormously disenfranchised populace that almost welcomes and demands its alienation because it is too lazy to avoid entropy. The narrative the plot that bears a resemblance to a mystery story that focuses on Oedipa’s effort to reshuffle the mysterious details of he will of Pierce Inverarity is served up to juxtapose the element of self-parody. Chaos and how it affects the assessment of information is a primary theme of The Crying of Lot 49. Many of the difficulties associated with the thematic element of chaos are related to the breakdown in communication. The primary representation of order is Maxwell’s Demon, but it cannot function because it necessitates impossible communication. Communication breaks down even to the level of letters; a mail-delivery group requiring members to dispatch at least one parcel a week regardless of whether they have anything of any importance whatever to say speaks volumes about Pynchon thinks of the stage of emotional communication as well intellectual discourse. Ultimately, it is possible even to question whether that letter that sets the entire chain of events in motion that Oedipa opens at the beginning of the novel could be entirely bogus; nothing more than a bizarre and unexplained prank. Part and parcel to the theme of miscommunication is the concept that interpretation of information is and will always remain subjective. Oedipa’s mission to create a constellation points toward the idea that she is still searching for only a surface meaning and not yet ready to delve into the dark and frightening abodes of genuine meaning. It is important, indeed, to remember that she fails in her attempt to decipher the meaning behind the Tristero. In fact, the book concludes with the possibility there simply is no mystery at to unravel. The Crying of Lot 49 is overwhelmed by the idea of cultural chaos and utilizes every imaginable element of society to comment upon the concept of how large a role chaos plays. That society in which Oedipa orbits is a world constructed by distractions and illusions built primarily upon the influence of drugs and media influence. By story’s end, however, Oedipa Maas is back where she began, alienated from those around her. Even worse, she has now lost the connection with the world she used to know. And just as she is unable to piece together the puzzle of the Tristero, she is similarly unable to refashion her life after it begins to fall apart. The ambiguity of the ending is completely in keeping with the advice to keep it bouncing. If Pynchon had ended the novel with unconditional answer to all its mysteries it would be tantamount to an abrupt end to the transmission of information. When and if that transmission ever does end, there will simply be no need to keep it all bouncing in the effort to arrive at an acceptable interpretation.

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