The Cry of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon: The Parodic and Literary Devices

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

Before receiving his ex’s will, Oedipa’s life, as an ordinary upper middle-class woman, is static and prosaic. The comic aspect of her character, for the most part, comes from this being ordinary and further unfolding of the plot. In addition to characters’ names which meanings are comical, situational humors can be seen in some parts of the novel as well. For example, John Nefastis, the not proven genius engineer and creator turns out to be a scammer with unusual desire for making love during the television reports on Vietnam or China. Or in the scene that Oedipa wants to get help from Dr. Hilarius, whom is meant to act as an authoritive figure, he fails her and as a result her frustration and uncertainty is increased. The band “The Paranoids” whom Oedipa faces during her stay in Inverarty’s motel, function as a satire on “The Beatles” and the youth culture of the sixties. They are all marijuana smokers; they fake an English accent for their songs.

However, the revelation Pynchon offers to the reader at the end of the novel, is one of the major points of the novel that leads to the novel as parody of detective fiction. At the ending of a normal detective fiction, as being previously mentioned, the culprit and his crime is uncurtained. The aim is to simplify and resolve a complex and ambiguous situation or mystery. However, The Cry of Lot 49’s ending is open and ambiguous. Through an outgrowing uncertainty and chaos, Pynchon manipulates the structure of detective fictions. Oedipa steps into the auction house to finally resolve the case of the “lot 49” and the true face of Trystero, but we do not get the answer – the novel ends before the auction starts. As previously mentioned, there is always this possibility that the Trystero never exist. The Trystero may be a conspiracy, it may be a practical joke, or it may simply be that Oedipa is just hallucinating. In contrast to a detective fiction in which revelation prevails, in this novel, mystery is the element which prevails.

As a metafictional literary work, The Cry of Lot 49’s parodic features do not dominate the whole text. Rather than being an end, those parodic aspects of the novel complement defamiliarization, which can be considered as a bigger theme of the novel. With all of these being said, the novel is not so different from a detective fiction as Oedipa, to the very end of the story, is still waiting and searching for a resolution and a way to solve the mystery. This is not far from the regular detective fictions the readers read and are familiar with. It seems like the narrative is cut off just before the mentioned resolution and consequently that resolution is never met.

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