The Government in The Crying of Lot 49 – Satire on Miscommunication and Complicated Relationships
The Crying of Lot 49
Thomas Pynchon’s novel, The Crying of Lot 49, presents the reader with a satire of miscommunications and the complexity of human relationships in our government, military, and industrial nation hidden behind the façade of a mystery novel. With the use of entropy, Pynchon is able to confirm that although human nature drives people to endeavor to take control of the universe, the more effort is put into this attempt, the more chaotic and unsystematic the world becomes. This is proven most effectively through Oedipa’s questioning of reality versus conspiracy further exemplifying the phenomenon of chaos, a strong theme throughout 1960s America.
First of all, a prevalent theme in the 1960s was sexual liberation. In the very beginning of the novel Oedipa sleeps with Metzger simply out of boredom with her marriage and the momentary need for erotic satisfaction. This represents the increasing awareness of women’s desires and the lessening of moral restraints upon sex in that time period.
Furthermore, LSD was an progressively more popular recreational drug and the hallucinations (or the fear of experiencing them) felt by Oedipa is prevalent throughout the use leading the reader to believe that she is either using drugs or simply having trouble maintaining her sanity , much in the way an acid user would in Pynchon’s 1960s experience. This familiarity with hallucinations represent the constant confusion faced by Oedipa as her mind creates situations that may seem real on the outside but are actually figments of her imagination. This illusion becomes real when, in Chapter 5, Oedipa discovers that her husband, Mucho, has been tripping on LSD and having flashbacks to his time working in the car lot.
Another symbol of the breakdown in communication are the letters in the novels. Generally letters represent a clear, direct form of communication but as the Tristero works, the letters are ultimately forced and meaningless, providing no additional information or aid to Oedipa. Maxwell’s demon, additionally, needs a higher, unattainable form of communication in order to operate, leaving it defunct.
In Oedipa’s search for truth and a better understanding of the American way, she discovers that the post-modern quest for knowledge, but ultimately realizes that “there either was some Tristero beyond the appearance of the legacy America, or there was just America and if there was just America then it seemed the only way she could continue…was as an alien, unfurrowed, assumed full circle into some paranoia.” Due to miscommunications, as well as the drug use predominant in sixties’ culture, Oedipa becomes isolated, losing touch with her loved ones and Pynchon is able to depict his surreal, and conspiracy filled America. Even the United States government in the novel, much like the government Pynchon experiences, can not impose an order on the world by way of controlling mail delivery. Underground groups continue to spring up in both cases, undermining the power of the government.
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