Crying Of Lot 49 Essay, Research Paper
There are two levels of apprehension to The Crying of Lot 49: that of the characters in the book, whose perception is limited to the text, and that of the reader, who has the ability to look at the world from outside of it. A recurring theme in the novel is the phenomenon of chaos, also called entropy. Both the reader and Oedipa have the same problems of facing the chaos around them. Through various methods, Pynchon imposes a fictional world of chaos on the world of the reader, a world already full of confusions. As readers, we are faced with the same uncertainty and complication of the mystery that the characters are involved in. As the mysteries unfold, an understanding of the characters leads to the understanding of ourselves.
Oedipa Mass, just like us, is forced to either involve herself in the deciphering of clues or not to participate at all in what she suspects to be a conspiracy. Her role is comparable to the role of Maxwell??s Demon. ??As the Demon sat and sorted his molecules into hot and cold, the system was said to lose entropy. But somehow the loss was offset by the information the Demon gained about what molecules were where?? (p.105). Oedipa??s purpose in the novel, besides executing a will, is to find meaning in a life dominated by assaults on people??s perceptions through the use of drugs and the muting of communications. Entangled in this chaos, Oedipa has to do what the Maxwell??s Demon does: sort useful facts from useless ones. Pynchon involves his audience in that they also have to interpret countless symbols and metaphors to arrive at a meaning.
One of the most effective techniques that Pychon uses to involve the reader in his fictional world is his use of details. His mixing of the specific history of Thurn and Taxis in his plot serves to overburden the reader with details that seems to have no relation to the story at hand. ?? From the same plastic folder he now tweezed what looked like an old Ferman stamp, with the figures 1/4 in the centre, the word Freimarke at the top, and along the right-hand margin the legend Thurn und Taxis?? (p.96). These specific details of history unite the reader??s real world with the fictional one created by Pynchon, thus luring the reader into the character??s search for the meaning of life. We may find in the end that, just like Oedipa, we ended up in our search at where we started. Furthurmore, this alternation of reality with fiction, such as the description of the ??Peter Pinguid Society??(p.49), acts to confuse the reader to such an extent that the reader is forced to rely upon Oedipa to decipher what is reality from what is illusion.
Pynchon also uses many metaphors which reveals the relationship between the author and the reader in The Crying of Lot 49. The most obvious one is the name of the protagonist, Oedipa Maas, which elicits the famous Greek riddle-solver Oedipus, whose quest to interpret the Delphic prophecies leads to his own downfall. Oedipa Mass also evokes the reader to think of Newton??s laws, where Oedipa is acted upon by the gravity of her surroundings. An object, once put in motion, as Oedipa is when she is named executrix of a will, tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. There exists two possiblities when we are presented with these metaphors: either that they are clues which may lead to the meaning of The Crying of Lot 49, or they were purposely set up by the author to deceive us. In the latter case, we may find that the novel has no direct meaning, but an indirect message questioning the very exsistance of meaning. This leads to the next uniting factor, paranoia.
One aspect that unites Oedipa and the audience is the state of paranoia. Unlike the Maxwell??s Demon, inside a closed system, the reader and Oedipa are exposed to pynchon??s fictional system, which is constantly expanding to include more and more aspects of contemporary America. Being inefficient sorters, both the reader and Oedipa are in a state of confusion, or paranoia. Paranoia, not defined to mean a type of mental illness, refers to the tendency to find meaning in symbols which may or may not have any meaning. At the climax, Oedipa sees the muted post horn everywhere she goes. ??In the lapel of which she spied, wrought exquisitely in some pale, glimmering alloy, not another cerise badge, but a pin in the shape of the Trystero post horn. Mute and everything?? (p.111). This makes us wonder if she is simply delusional, as most witnesses to her think, or if there really exists a conspiracy involving the Trystero, thus this puts us at a state of paranoia that Oedipa is in.
From one perspective, we can say that Pierce Inverarity, Oedipa??s dead ex-boyfriend, serves to unite the respective quests of the reader and Oedipa. The estate that Pierce Inverarity leaves behind at his death are clues which may lead to his identity. Oedipa??s job is to ??bestow life on what had persisted?Kto bring the estate into pulsing stelliferous Meaning, all in a soaring dome around here?? (p.58). Pierce Inverarity is , to Oedipa, someone who is able to impose an order on the entropy of clues surrounding her. Pierce can construct complicated networks of estates out of nothing. He alone is the creator of the chaos which encircles Oedipa. Pynchon succeeds in embodying Pierce Inverarity as a powerful character who, ironically, never participated in the plot of the story himself. Pierce was a ??knight of deliverance?? (p.22) who had failed to free Oedipa from the tower of her own consciousness of the world. In this sense, we can say that Pierce Inverarity is the conspirator behind all events in the novel. The author parallels Pierce in playing that role. Pynchon creates a web of events that the reader must interpret.
The most inventive method that Pynchon uses for involving the reader in the novel in The Crying of Lot 49 is the mock-Jacobean drama ??The Courier??s Tragedy??. Oedipa??s witnessing the play is comparable to our apprehending of the novel. ??While a battle rages in the streets outside the palace, Pasquale is locked up in his patrician hothouse, holding an orgy?? (p. 69). We can see from this example that Pynchon??s switching from Jacobean vocabulary to modern phrases distances the reader form the play, similar to Oedipa??s role as a confused spectator on Pierce??s estate.
There are hints of warnings to the reader and Oedipa of the addictive nature of their respective searches. ??You guys, you??re like the Puritans about the Bible. So hung up with words?? (p. 79). With Oedipa??s inability to separate her play from its author, editor or producer, her search for the original version of ??The Courier??s Tragedy?? is a metaphor of the reader??s troubles in making sense of the novel. Our attempt to draw meaning out of a possibly meaningless novel parallels Oedipa??s suspicions of conspiracies when it could have been just in her imagination.
Pynchon uses many different techniques which all serves to unite the reader??s quest for a literary meaning with Oedipa??s quest for self-discovery in the end. Oedipa??s self-discovery then leads to our own self-discovery. One major link that combines the readers with Oedipa, as mentioned before, is the state of paranoia. Throughout the novel, we will reach many conclusions which we might later realize to be false. Our inability to decipher symbols relates to Oedipa??s inability to decipher the truth amongst chaos. In both cases, we need to increase the communicative entropy of our world. Nonetheless , The Crying of Lot 49 succeeds in actively involving the reader within the mystery of the text, thus we can learn something about ourselves as we discover what Oedipa learns of herself.