The following academic paper highlights the up-to-date issues and questions of Lot 49. This sample provides just some ideas on how this topic can be analyzed and discussed.
Communication is a core necessity of humanity. It is the cornerstone of development for our society, and indeed for the world. It is the only way to transmit concepts, ideas, and inspirations from one person’s mind to another’s. As sophisticated a race as humans are, there is always room for error, and difficulties in communication are quite abundant.
There are also many opportunities for differing interpretations, which eventually leads to a struggle to find a single meaning.
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon is a novel entirely about communication and interpretation of language, whether there are multiple valid meanings or a single one. Pynchon writes about communication having a variety of mediums, and yet what is being said is insignificant. Therefore, the author suggests that the very act of communication is much more powerful than the content itself.
Right from the beginning, Pynchon uses communication to confuse Oedipa, where Pierce is switching between voices, none of which are his own.
Pierce uses multiple voices and accents, where he finally settles into a Lamont Cranston voice. “So it was the last of his voices she ever heard. Lamont Cranston” (Pynchon 3). Pierce no longer has his own identity, and therefore, his communication is transformed into random snippets of dialogue that have very little meaning. However, it is the act of Pierce (or Cranston) speaking that gives it meaning, no matter who he is.
This concept is played upon many times throughout this book, as well as the idea of mixed interpretations and the perceived world.
In Mexico, Oedipa views the painting “Bordando el Manto Terrestre” by Remedios Varo, and it triggers an intense emotional response within her. “She could carry the sadness of the moment with her that way forever, see the world refracted through those tears, those specific tears” (11). Oedipa feels such a strong connection to the women trapped in their tower, and she cries until she fills up her glasses with tears. She then takes this moment and chooses to perceive the rest of the world with this newfound information and emotions, hoping to find a new interpretation of life.
Hence, all of Oedipa’s communication is influenced by this one almost religious experience she has with the Remedios Varo painting, and the reader is led to believe that she sees the world in a different way. In essence, the medium through which the painting communicates this concept to her is extremely significant because it is an uncensored view into Oedipa’s psyche. Overall, this is much more important than the actual painting itself.
At The Scope, Oedipa and Metzger talk to the bartender about the live midnight Sinewave Session, where they will be playing electronic music for the entire bar. ” ‘Live? Metzger said, ‘electronic music, live? ‘ “(34). He remarks on the irony of playing electronic music live, but the bartender responds in a serious tone. For him and the rest of the bar-goers, it does not matter how they listen to their music; the only thing that matters is that the music is there. While the content stays the same, the act of listening to this electronic music is an extremely powerful one. Oedipa walks into the ladies’ room at The Scope and sees a very influential message. “On the latrine wall, among lipsticked obscenities, she noticed the following message, neatly indited in engineering lettering” (38).
The message then reveals to Oedipa the organization waste, and thus begins her journey and pursuit of truth. The intriguing aspect of this, however, is that this life-changing message is not written on parchment, nor on a legal document, but rather in a bathroom stall. Pynchon suggests that the communication between entities is the most important element here, regardless of how it is communicated. Moments later, Metzger receives a letter via waste that Oedipa finds curious. “Dear Mike… how are you? Just thought I’d drop you a note. How’s your book coming?
Guess that’s all for now. See you at The Scope” (39). Metzger’s pen pal obviously has no point in writing this note, but the note seems to still say something. To the reader, it is meaningless, but to Mike and the people who write by waste, this note is key. It is a symbol that stands for the rebellion, the uprising against a society that scorns communication in all forms. The note, however rudimentary, is in itself extremely significant because it shows that humanity will always have the power of communication, and how important that skill is for human beings to live on.
When Oedipa sees the play The Courier’s Tragedy by Richard Wharfinger, she is left awestruck by the final couplet of the second to last act. “… Who’s once been set his tryst with Trystero… Trystero. The word hung in the air as the act ended and all lights were for a moment cut; hung in the dark to puzzle Oedipa Maas, but not yet to exert the power over her it was to” (58). Oedipa is left extremely confused by this, and Pynchon notes that in the future, it will be even more prevailing. Theater experiences, in general, are all about the act of communicating and conveying a message to an audience.
Here, Pynchon writes as if this message is solely intended for Oedipa. This theater-going experience and the art of communication is not wasted on her; it resounds within her, much like the Remedios Varo painting, and she now trudges through this mystery with more clues and information. Backstage, when Oedipa confronts the director Randolph Driblette, he leaves her with a few words of wisdom. “That’s what I’m for. To give the spirit flesh. The words, who cares?… the reality is in this head. Mine. I’m the projector at the planetarium” (62).
Driblette tells Oedipa that the content, or the words on the page, is irrelevant. Rather, the act of communication, or the meaning that the director gives the words is all that matters. The projector at the planetarium metaphor is significant because Driblette does not declare that he is the stars that make up the sky, nor does he say that he is the galaxy, central and omnipresent. Driblette says that he is the projector, the means of communication, the device that portrays mankind’s interpretation of the world as we know it.
Who cares what the universe looks like, if there is no universal truth? Clearly influenced by Driblette’s mid-shower speech, Oedipa muses about communication and meaning. “Under the symbol she’d copied off the latrine wall of The Scope into her memo book, she wrote Shall I project a world? ” (64). This is a straight reference to the projector at the planetarium, and Pynchon implies that Oedipa sees the world in different way. The power of interpretation is now in her hands, as suggested by the fact that she has become the projector.
Communication in all forms is more important than the content that is being communicating, because of the power of interpretation. A single sentence can be decoded in multiple ways, and therefore it is left to the communicator to relay the message in his/her own way. When Oedipa visits John Nefastis’s residence, she tries to understand Maxwell’s Demon and the concept of the sensitive. ” ‘Communication is the key,’ cried Nefastis. ‘The Demon passes his data on to the sensitive, and the sensitive must reply in kind…
The sensitive must receive that staggering set of energies, and feed back something like the same quantity of information’” (84-85). Oedipa becomes the sender of information in this closed system, and she must find a way to communicate, in whatever way possible, with this theoretical Demon. Furthermore, if she does succeed in transmitting this energy, she would have no idea if it the piston moved because she has to focus on the enigmatic picture of Clerk Maxwell. Therefore, it becomes a game of interpretation, and whether or not a person believes in this entropic idea.
The simple act of communication between the sensitive and the Demon reveals that it does not matter what actually transpires between the two entities, only that they can somehow relate on an interpersonal scale. When Oedipa finds out that her husband, Wendell (Mucho) Maas has been taking LSD at the approval of Dr. Hilarius, she meets head-on with his visions. “You’re an antenna, sending your pattern out across a million lives a night, and they’re your lives too… The songs, it’s not just that they say something, they are something, in pure sound” (118). For Mucho, the world has become much more significant because of the drugs.
However, it also highlights some communication and hidden meaning motifs because of the hyperreal state that is drug-induced. Mucho begins to “communicate” in many different forms now, and somehow finds multiple hidden meanings within each passageway. The content, or the songs, are semi-significant, but the sound waves are much more fascinating to him. This distinction between the act of communication and the content is something that Pynchon utilizes to suggest that everything is open to interpretation, and that there is no universal truth or singular meaning.
While raw communication is the cornerstone of humanity, it is also the only possible way to transfer ideas from one person to another. This capability provides human beings with new ways of interpretation, and new explanations to provide them with a more understandable view of the world they live in. For Oedipa, much of the communication and language she encounters appear to be meaningless, but it is incredibly symbolic. The very act of communication between two entities is much more critical than the actual content or meaning, and within the context of this novel, communication is the only thing that humanity can rely on.