Thomas Pynchon’s Oedipa Maas in The Crying of Lot 49

I love the way that the character of Oedipa emerges throughout Thomas Pynchon‘s The Crying of Lot 49 in reference to the other characters, the plot, and the setting. We are not given much information about Oedipa in the beginning, except from what is introduced in the first line. That she is a housewife who attends Tupperware parties. It seems to me that her whole character exists entirely in relation to something else: her opinion to Mucho’s career issues, her worries over interacting with the law firm, her descriptions of Southern California architecture and residential lifestyle, etc. As a result, what emerges is that she’s somewhat of a powerless but curious personality, maybe naïve and unsure. In a way, she personifies the discontent that was the impetus for the antiestablishment culture of the 60s. She personifies the conflict between past and present but stops short of embracing the new way of being. Becoming antiestablishment would actually require her to change her personality and become the opposite of what she is: decisive, powerful, and not conflicted.

I love the way that Stefan described Pynchon’s writing style: as the embodiment of “linguistic indulgence to the point of near inanity.” It’s true and I think this is what makes his writing brilliant. His style makes the plot and the action irrelevant and focuses entirely on the more important elements of character and setting. For example, “though he dieted he could still not as Oedipa did use honey to sweeten his coffee for like all things viscous and distressed him, recalling too poignantly what is often mixed with motor oil to lose dishonest into gaps between piston and cylinder wall.” I love the way that this description of Mucho gives the reader such a clear picture of both his discontent with his career and what and how it actually affects him. I almost wish the story had no conspiracy and instead had a simple plot (like Oedipa and Mucho go to a dinner party and her lover is there) so we can have more of the inanity about who different characters are and what drives them.

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