Theme of The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 is a great example of the relationship between Modernism to Post Modernism. In the novel, rejected objects play a crucial role in establishing the relationship between modernism and postmodernism.
This first item entails a discussion of The Crying of Lot 49, which focuses on the heroine, Oedipa Mass, as she strives to uncover the secrets behind the death of her recently deceased ex-boyfriend after being named the executor of his will. Set against the backdrop of Hollywood, Oedipa follows several dead-end paths to unfold not only the mystery of her ex-lover’s death, but to uncover the depths of her inner soul. Pynchon expresses that lost causes are the only kind worth fighting for in this novel, because they lead to self-discovery, even if that discovery is only the realization of all that we don’t know and understand.
As Oedipa becomes more tangled in the lies and the hope of discovering truth becomes vague, she strives even more to uncover it. There’s something terribly heroic about a person who continues searching for truth despite the realization that such a quest is a lost cause. She searches not simply to find answers, but to find questions and to realize that her quest is about the journey and not her destination. The novel is ultimately about a modernist heroine striving to find her place in a postmodern world.
Pynchon’s novel also critiques certain aspects of modernity by exemplifying a society that is filled with both discarded objects and discarded people. The most obvious example of this is the acronym WASTE, which evolves into a central theme of the book for both the reader and the protagonist, Oedipa Maas. WASTE is supposedly an underground mailing system created by dissatisfied members of society to subvert the U.S. Postal service. Oedipa becomes obsessed with the concept of WASTE and goes on a frantic journey to attempt to uncover this mystery.
Oedipa lives in a society saturated by consumerism. “Waste” is prevalent in the novel because consumerism is everywhere and new objects are constantly replacing the old. Pierce In veracity becomes a key symbol of consumerism and capitalism because he owns much of the world that Oedipa is thrown into during the course of the novel. Oedipa is immersed in this world of consumerism, living as a suburban housewife who attends Tupperware parties and cooks dinner for her husband every night. It becomes apparent that admit these Tupperware parties and multiple credit cards, Pynchon is creating a vision of a plastic society. This plastic society is one that is always changing in hopes of improvement
Here people are always shifting, ignoring the past, and looking for an improved version of life. This is a very modernist idea, and one that Pynchon is obviously critiquing because he regards this exchange as “future less.” There is also the idea that the information is being replaced by “imitations” and not the truth. This results in the destruction of truth.
Oedipa seems to be suffering from a sort of identity crisis because of her inability to uncover the past. She fears that she will be unable to remember past events and therefore she will not know herself. Although The Crying of Lot 49 seems to have pessimistic tone to it, throughout the course of novel, Oedipa evolves as a character. Initially, she is an enclosed housewife, dependent on her husband and living in the suburbs. However, she evolves into a postmodern heroine.
Even if she never discovers the truth behind WASTE, she still conquests as a character because she acknowledges the necessity of discarded objects and discarded members of society. She becomes her own heroine, no longer relying on husbands, wealthy boyfriends and insane analyst to save her. She learns to recognize that the apparently useless, discarded people and objects are vital links to a past that modern society is trying to undermine. It is only by looking to the past that she will be able to look towards the future. Her character experiences a submergence of consciousness, and it is through the presence of discarded objects that she is able to evolve into a human being as opposed to remaining a plastic product of a consumer driven society.