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The Crying of Lot 49

Upon reading Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, there is a sense that Oedipa Maas, the protagonist of the novel, is treading the path walked earlier in literature by Alice, in Lewis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland. Oedipa, like Alice, is cast head-long into a meta-real world within which she must not only survive but also make sense of, in order to survive.

The purpose of this paper is to examine Oedipa's attempts to make sense of a fragmented and fragmenting world, by trying to construct a metanarrative -- a task that is perpetually impossible. Jean-Frantois Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition will provide the theoretical basis of our inquiry. To arrive at a Lyotardian reading of Pynchon's novel, we will concentrate on the themes of entropy and the self. As well, we shall read the Lyotardian themes of knowledge, communication and power by way of Pynchon.

When Oedipa embarks on her journey for San Narciso, she hopes to build a metanarrative about her ex-boyfriend, the late Pierce Inverarity (aside from going to serve as the executor of his will). What she confronts is entropy, mirrored in Maxwell's Demon that Nefastis has created -- a machine that seeks to preserve a world that is able to remain heterogeneous. However, San Narciso is not heterogeneous; it is a place filled with incommensurable stories -- narratives forever free-floating: "Oedipa wondered 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 itselfa". Despite this incommensurability, Oedipa seeks to create a metanarrative, a grand schema, that will define for her the truth. In short, she is seeking her own Maxwell's Demon.

But her own world lies completely shattered, very much like the smashed mirror in the bathroom in Chapter 2, wherein she cannot find her reflection. Like Alice displaced into Wonderland, Oedipa has exited Kinneret, wh...

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The Crying of Lot 49. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 16:32, March 20, 2019, from