Beginning The Crying of Lot 49

As you begin Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, be patient with yourself and with the novel. It moves at a dizzying pace, in long, complex sentences, incident piling upon incident. It is meant to overwhelm and confuse you a bit, as Oedipa Maas feels overwhelmed and confused by her task, and as we identify with her as the protagonist.

 

And what is that task? What task is she given on the first page of the novel? To execute the will of her former boyfriend, Pierce Inverarity. And what did he own? What didn’t he own in southern California? The OED defines the verb “execute” thus:. 1. a. trans. To follow out, carry into effect (an intention, purpose,  plan, instruction, or command.) d. To perform or carry out the provisions of (a  will). 2. a. To carry out, perform (an action, operation, movement, etc., that  has been planned or prescribed, or that  requires skill or care).

 

Intertextuality (which is like literary allusion, but goes more deeply, as other texts may be directly incorporated into the text, influencing its structure, themes, and so on) pervades the novel, beginning with the reference to Lamont Cranston. On a radio program (1936-1954), he was  played by Orson Welles. The Shadow was originally the alter ego of Lamont Cranston, a wealthy playboy who at some point went to  the Orient where he learned to hypnotize people in large numbers.  On the radio this took the form of being able to appear invisible (handy for a radio show). In the pulp novels, he relied more on his guns and his mastery of disguise; it was revealed that in fact he  was NOT Lamont Cranston, but aviator Kent Allard whose  plane crashed in the Orient. He took on the disguise of Lamont Cranston. Later it was suggested that in fact the body of Kent Allard was found in the wreck of his plane in the Orient and that  The Shadow was neither Lamont Cranston or Kent Allard. (See http://www.pulps.westumulka.com/shadow/ and http://www.spaceports.com/~deshadow/). Given that Pierce is aligned with Lamont Cranston, we might anticipate that his identity is mysterious as well.

 

Another crucial reference early on is to the painting Bordando el Manto Terrestre by Remedios Varo (1961), which translates as “Embroidering Earth’s Mantle.”

bordando-el-manto-terrestre

Oedipa has very much been in the situation pictured here, trapped in a tower, fabricating her sense of the reality outside. Anyone walking around on this earth, however, would never realize that the surface is a tapestry created—dreamt up—by others, and that, by analogy, our deeply held assumptions about contemporary reality are not objectively true (which should remind you of Nietszche). Oedipa’s quest will be to escape the tower, and to understand Pierce, and his legacy—literarily, what he left behind for the world, for her, to remember, as well as what his property holdings are.

 

Once you’ve read the first three chapters of the novel, answer these questions. It is fair to say that the characters and the narration in Pynchon’s novel depart from realistic characterization in important ways, even as they caricature contemporary realities in 1960s California. Please complete your response by Saturday, April 8th at 10 p.m., and please respond to two students by Monday, April 10th at 10 p.m.

1) How does the characterization of Oedipa Maas, Mucho Maas, Dr. Hilarius, Roseman, Pierce Inverarity, or Metzger, etc., compare to that of Quentin, Jason or Caddy Compson in The Sound and the Fury? In what ways does their characterization seem to follow verisimilitude, and in what ways does it not? Consider point of view, their names, what we are told and NOT told about them, and how they behave. QUOTE AND ANALYZE EVIDENCE.

 

2) How does Pynchon’s narrator compare to Faulkner’s realistic third-person narrator in the last section of The Sound and the Fury? Consider verisimilitude in all aspects, as well as tone, syntax, place names and plot. QUOTE AND ANALYZE EVIDENCE.

 

3) What do you think the Trystero is? Don’t look ahead or read elsewhere. Speculate, at this point in the novel, and QUOTE AND ANALYZE EVIDENCE.

 

SOME HELPFUL REMINDERS OF CONVENTIONS OF REALIST FICTION:

 

“Critic George J. Becker’s definition of the realist novel [is] … a substantial work in prose that offers verisimilitude of detail, a norm of experience, and an objective view of human nature…. By the mid-nineteenth century, realism was simply considered modern, and readers assumed that contemporary fiction would aspire to verisimilitude” (911).

 

Verisimilitude: the appearance of being true or real; likeness or resemblance to truth, reality, or fact; probability.

 

- An objective, third-person, omniscient narrator.

- Ordinary, middle-class, non-heroic characters.

-  Detailed, accurate description of physical and cultural settings, personal appearances, etc.

-  Vernacular dialogue that accurately portrays the social background,  education, class, etc., of the characters.

– The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Vol. C. 1865-1914. Ed. Nina Baym. New  York: W.W.  Norton, 2007.

 

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52 Comments

  1. 1. Comparing Oedipa Maas to someone wild like Caddy Compson is both hard and east to do. Oedipa is a housewife who’s ex-boyfriend just made her rich while Caddy is considered to be a wild child who becomes pregnant from unknown lover. On the other hand, they are both similar in way because they wish to free. Caddy wants freedom from her controlling brother which gets by having sex with multiple lovers and Oedipa wants freedom from her husband and achieves it by having sex with Metzger. This novel does a good job with suppling verisimilitude especially in regards to the dialogue being used. When Metzger went to Oedipus’s hotel to hang out with her and they were discussing a movie they were watching and the conversation goes like, “”This is absurd,” [Oedipa] said,”of course they’ll get out.” / How do you know?,”[Metzger said.] / “All those movies had happy endings.” / “All?” / “Most” (Pynchon, 34). This is a realistic conversation that can occur between two people who are discussing a possible outcome for the end of a movie.

    2. Pynchon’s narration of The Crying of Lot 49 definitely differs from the narration in Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury. Faulkner’s novel covers the point of view and events told from four different people with their own opinions and thoughts. Pynchon’s narration has only shown that the point of view only focuses on Oedipa. Pynchon does have a third person narrative, for example, “She, [Oedipa], could carry the sadness of the moment with her that way forever, see the world refracted through those tears. those specific tears, as if indices as yet unfound varied in important ways from cry to cry” (Pynchon, 21). But the third person is focused on one character only as apposed to focus on four different characters in Faulkner’s novel.

    3.The Trystero, or Tristero as it is spelled in my book, is definitely a code word for something important in regards to Oedipa’s investigation. The way Tystero is present in the play,”No hallowed skein of stars can ward, I trow, / Who’s once been set his tryst with Trystero” (Pynchon, 75) makes it sound like Trystero is the name of someone. Not much is mentioned about Tystero but Pynchon does imply that he will mention it later so we will have a better idea on what Trystero is supposed to be.

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    1. I agree that the Trystero is a code word for something important. I had not considered it being the name of a person. The line you picked out from the play does make it seem like it is a person or a place. I am excited to find out more about this mystery.

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    2. i do agree that Caddy and Oedipa are alike because they want to gain freedom; however, they achieve it in a different way. They are different because Oedipa was lucky enough to become wealthy unexpectedly from her ex. Really enjoy reading your response. I feel that both characters Caddy and Oedipa were such selfish women and they only thought about what they wanted.

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    3. I agree that Caddy and Oedipa are similar in some ways and different in other ways. They both are searching for a freedom from something in their lives. The third-person aspect does only focus on one character and their prospectives.

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    4. I too compared Oedipa to Caddy and I thought the same things as you. Both Caddy and Oedipa are selfish but long for freedom. I think their differences also lie in the way the authors wrote them. If we had seen from Caddy’s perspective, maybe we would sympathize with her more. Tristero being a person is interesting, but I thought the line you supplied sounded more like a place or business. I’m excited to learn more about it.

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    5. I agree, Oedipa and Caddy do have similarities. Your example of verisimilitude does show a realistic conversation between two people. I also think that the word Trystero is a code word for the mystery Oedipa is trying to solve.

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  2. The characterization of Oedipa Maas is very different to that of Caddy. Both women have sex out of wedlock, but Oedipa is not portrayed badly in the way that Caddy is because of it: “that night’s infidelity with Metzger would logically be the starting point of [discovery of Tristero] (30). This is probably because we actually concentrate on Oedipa while in The Sound and the Fury sees Caddy from multiple different perspectives but never from Caddy herself. The sex scene also was very uncomfortable, considering it was sexual assault, which we don’t know about Caddy’s sexual experience. Caddy is portrayed as very caring of Benjy, but Oedipa is very selfish, maybe similar to the way Caddy is portrayed through Jason and Quentin. Oedipa leaves her husband for an indeterminable amount of time to try to find her freedom, something she should be doing with her husband (13).

    The narration is similar to “Th e Sound and the Fury” because of the use of stream of consciousness. Though Faulkner uses first person in most of “The Sound and the Fury,” they both use very long sentences to depict real-time thoughts and feelings: “Ruefully, because the henchman, a likable schemer named Ercole, is secretly involved with dissident elements in the court of Faggio who want to keep Niccolo alive…” (50). This is close to how someone would explain a play they’ve seen in real life with run-on sentences and no pauses, just as Faulkner does with his characters.

    I think Tristero has something to do with the investigation into Inverarity’s holdings, but it also has to be something that frees her since she describes it as “[bringing] to an end her encapsulation in her tower” (31). It might be a reveal into her and Inverarity’s relationship or something even bigger, but it must free her from her boring life. We’ll probably find out pretty soon since Pynchon suggests we’ll see Tristero again.

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    1. Tristero could reveal her and Inverarity’s relationship, but we do not know as of yet. But I like your suggestion. Also I wouldn’t have thought of Oedipa’s sex scene as an act of sexual assault, but more of a drunken mistake and poor judgement. I mean, it is Oedipa who attacks Metzger with a wild kiss which leads to sex. Any who, I like your opinions and agree with you when you say Tristero could be a metaphor for relationship with Inverarity.

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    2. I do agree that Caddy has different perspectives from other characters, while Oedipa is not. Both women are so alike, yet so different at the same time because they badly want freedom. The story is crazy about how Oedipa approached Metzger and had sex with him, which made me think of Caddy who also like Oedipa had sex without marriage. I really enjoy reading your response and how both women are portrayed differently.

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    3. I agree entirely with your analysis and like that you decided to focus on the differences between the two woman rather than their similarities. Its far to easy to imagine and impart society’s typical judgments on Oedipa’s character but as you’ve pointed out, there really isn’t much evidence in terms of character description or tone of the narrator in regards to Oedipa that would suggest any ill opinions.

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    4. I agree that Caddy and Oedipa are both similar in terms of their behavior. It’s almost like they see sex as a sort of self-discovery, as they are both characters that seem to be unsure of who they truly are. Nevertheless, Caddy is wrongfully shunned by her family for having sex, while Oedipa is not judged as harshly.

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  3. The characterization of Oedipa Maas is similar to Caddy Compson from The Sound and the Fury. Both characters have lovers whom they have sexual relationships with outside of wedlock. Even though Oedipa has a husband, she still has an affair with Metzger. Caddy becomes pregnant with Dalton Ames child. A good example of verisimilitude would be the dialogue between Oedipa and Driblette. He says “Wharfinger was no Shakesperare” and she responds by saying “Who was he?” (Pynchon 60). This dialogue accurately portrays the reality of certain social backgrounds, education, and classes because there are people who do not know who Shakespeare is.

    Pynchon’s narrator is can be compared to Faulkner’s realistic third-person narrator in the last section of The Sound and the Fury because it is told from the point-of-view from one character. The Crying of Lot 49 is told from the perspective of Oedipa. It is similar to The Sound and the Fury because it told from one character’s perspective even though The Sound and the Fury has different perspectives from different characters. Both stories use italics. An example of verisimilitude would be when Oedipa says “You’re a selfish schmuck” (Pynchon 45). The tone in this quote gives the story the appearance of being real.

    I think that Trystero is probably a code word for the mystery Oedipa is trying to solve. This can be seen in the following quote, “She was somehow sure, driving in on the slick freeway, that the “irregulaties” would tie in with the word Trystero” (Pynchon 75).

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    1. I also saw a similarity between Caddy Compson and Oedipa Maas. They both had sexual relationships outside of wedlock but the circumstances surrounding these relationships were different. The narrators of the two stories were similar as well, as you pointed out. I also believe Trystero is a code word for something.

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    2. It is nice to see a lot of people compare Caddy to Oedipa because of their likeness. I also like your example for verisimilitude. It is sad to read that not a lot of people know who Shakespeare is, but is realistic which is the point of verisimilitude. Also, for the second example you used, you can also say the use of the jargon word like “schmuck” is also example of verisimilitude because it makes Oedipa more human, than writing her lines with proper grammar and without jargon.

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    3. I agree with your bringing up the out of wedlock marriages. Both stories draw great attention to the phenomenon for one of two reasons: they were either affected by this personally or they have a strong feelings against it, innately. Out of wedlock marriages provide myriad human emotions to draw from in concluding who a character is. You drew attention to one of the more prominent determinants of the stories.

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  4. Oedipa Maas, from The Crying of Lot 49, is very similar to Caddy Compson, from The Sound and the Fury. Both characters have sexual relationships out of wedlock. The difference being that Oedipa’s relationship with Metzger is an extramarital affair; whereas, Caddy’s relationship was one that occurred before she was ever married. Oedipa’s characterization seems to follow verisimilitude through her dialog. She and Mucho were discussing what to do about the will Oedipa was put in charge of. She questions what she should do to which Mucho replies “you got the wrong fella. Not me. I can’t even make out our income tax right” (7). This dialog shows that they are both not educated enough to know how to handle the situation and vernacular language is used. This shows the social class and education backgrounds of the characters.
    The narration of The Crying of Lot 49 is similar to the narration of The Sound and the Fury. They both seem like they are streams of consciousness. In the Sound and the Fury, that technique was signified by lack of punctuation by here it is indicated by long, continuous sentences. As Oedipa contemplates “Maybe to excess: how could he not, seeing people poorer than him come in, Negro, Mexican, cracker, a parade seven days a week, bringing the most godawful of trade-ins: motorized, metal extensions of themselves,…” (4). This goes on for another page and shows how one thought can lead to another which can lead to another and continue of forever. The narration of both stories is also similar in that they both require a third-person narrator and ordinary, middle-class characters. I think Trystero is a code word for something. It might possibly be the thing that frees her or by solving the mystery of what the Trystero is she will be freed. It could be something to do with the will her ex-boyfriend left to her. Cohen, the man in charge f helping her with the work while Metzger is gone, calls Opedia about some irregularities and the narrator states that “she was somehow sure, driving in on the slick freeway, that the ‘irregularities’ would tie in with the word Trystero” (75). This implies that she knows that it will have something to do with the will.

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    1. I agree with you, Oedipa Maas and Caddy Compson do have some similarities but their circumstances are different. I like your example of verisimilitude. It does show the character’s social class and educational background. Both narrations do seem like a stream of consciousness.

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  5. Oedipa life is falling apart and you can get the sense that she is becoming more and more isolated because she doesn’t know what to do. Her ex-boyfriend leaves her a will and she is remembering Pierce through her memories. Such as The Sound and the Fury the character is recounting the present time to the past memories. She recalls the moment of Pierce when, “But dauntless, perhaps using one of his many credit cards for a shim, he’d slipped the lock on her tower door and the conchlike stairs,” this shows that she is remembering the moments with him and he is described to be very wealthy (11). The characters in the story in one point goes crazy or insane they have too much in their plate that the can’t handle. Oedipa is not like Caddy from “The Sound and the Fury,” because they are portrayed differently and there is different point of views about Caddy. Oedipa is a very selfish person she thinks about herself and she leaves her husband. Caddy and Oedipa are alike because they both had sex without marriage and they also want freedom.
    Thomas Pynchon using third person by attracting readers of the emotionally invested the characters are. Oedipa Maas is given pretty much a will through her ex-boyfriend and she has to do all these duties for the will and clues. Reading through these chapters, I can tell that Oedipa doesn’t have communicate or have emotion to towards the other characters. The third person limits the readers the access of what is really going on in the narrator’s perspective. The narrator is going through a lot in the story, but you can’t get the sense of how they feel in the situation they are in. While, The Sound and the Fury third person doesn’t limit us from the character’s point of view because you can really visualize and sense what’s really going on in their environment. The Sound and the Fury the tone of the story was very depress, emotional, discriminated, and also devastating all of the character’s is really going through and the readers are allowed to read what’s going on in their thoughts and feelings.
    I believe Tristero in regards in Oedipa life in achieving her freedom. For example “Tristero System or often only The Tristero (as if it might be something’s secret title) were to bring to an end her encapsulation in her tower,” Oedipa cheated on her husband in order to have her freedom and she didn’t like her boring life and she wanted to escape from it (31).

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    1. I agree with your description of Oedipa and how she doesn’t have emotion towards the other characters. She seems to just do her thing, and not even really be that invested even in her relationship because the will consumes her and her curiosity as to why.

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  6. Oedipa Maas shares many similarities with Caddy Compson from The Sound and the Fury. The two women have sexual relations outside of a marriage and both are searching for ways to obtain freedom, even if it means compromising in some instances.
    Verisimilitude is seen through the dialogue in the story. For example, in a conversation with Mucho, Oedipa shows him the letter from Metzler asking for advice. He responds by saying, “you got the wrong fella Not me. I can’t even make out our income tax right. Execute a will, there’s nothing I can tell you…” (7). In this instance, we can see the lack of education and knowledge on basic legal forms.

    The narration is very different from The Sound and the Fury. Faulkner uses many different points of view as he shifts from character to character. In Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, he uses only one point of view. Oedipa is the only character that is really focused on.

    Tristero seems to be a code word for something. I think it has something to do with her being freed once it is solved. Pynchon writes, “The Tristero (as if it might be something’s secret title) were to bring to an end her encapsulation in her tower, then that night’s infidelity with Metzler would logically be the starting point for it” (31). Her cheating on her husband was a form of freedom she felt and could be represented in the tristero.

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    1. I did not think of the Tristero as a representation of her freedom, but as the opposite, as part of her possible undoing. Because of how vague Pynchon is being, I wonder if it may actually be a combination of the two. I guess we will see who ends up being right, or maybe it is something else entirely. Even though we were not to read ahead to guess, I googled “Tristero definiton” and nothing but the book came up, so I am assuming it is a symbol of Pynchon’s making and may merely reference history and myths.

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  7. The immediate similarity one can find between the characters Oedipa Maas and Caddy Compson is their sexual experiences, both which occur outside of wedlock. However the major difference between these two in this regard is that Oedipa’s dalliance happens to be an extramarital affair rather than a relationship like Caddy’s in “The Sound and the Fury.” Pynchon makes great use of verisimilitude through his dialogue, giving an interesting lens into a sometimes hard to understand world. One example of this is when trying to decide what to do with the will she is left in charge of, Mucho gives the saddened response that he “can’t even make our tax income right” (7), which shows that even in this world things are still very real and difficult to deal with. Neither know how to handle the situation Oedipa has been thrust into and are just as lost as anyone else would be.

    One of the major similarities in narration between The Crying of Lot 49 and The Sound and the Fury is both works’ utilization of stream-of-consciousness storytelling through their characters. A notable difference here is that Faulker uses multiple characters to tell a more sprawling, comprehensive story while Pynchon sticks to a sole narrator to keep the reader as lost as she is. Had he chosen to take a similar route to Faulkner the story of The Crying of Lot 49 wouldn’t have the same effect at all. The reader needs to be as lost as Oedipa to adequately portray just how out of her element she is. Because of this, the reader is able to feel closer to Oedipa and project themselves onto her, making quotes like: “She, [Oedipa], could carry the sadness of the moment with her that way forever, see the world refracted through those tears. those specific tears, as if indices as yet unfound varied in important ways from cry to cry” (21) that much more effective and impactful.

    The Tristero seems to be something of a clue or symbol for the investigation Oedipa is embarking on. It stands to symbolize the mystery of the whole novel, a code word of sorts to free her from the burden of the will she has been forced to carry out despite her lack of knowledge and understanding of the whole situation. It is clear that even Oedipa knows the significance of Tristero, even if the specifics are unclear: “She was somehow sure, driving in on the slick freeway, that the “irregulaties” would tie in with the word Trystero” (Pynchon 75).

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    1. I believe the Tristero is a clue or a symbol of something for Oedipa as well. Something in the back of her mind although she doesn’t know what it is, is telling her to focus on the clue. Caddy and Oedipa does both have what could be considered taboo sexual experiences.

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    2. I thought the Trystero was one of the more alluring concepts in the novel, Lot 49. The way in which Pynchon lays out the details of his story provides for a very fruitful reading. I certainly was tantalized by the speculating upon what the Trystero is. I found it interesting and compelling that he decides not to reveal information too early in the story. He is a genius in revealing all that needs to be – at the right time – in order for the reader to have to work a bit to understand what is going on.

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  8. The characters in The Crying of Lot 49 and The Sound and the Fury all have one similar aspect of personality to varying degrees. In both books, the characters are all battling something either inner (with their inner battles not letting anyone really see everything that is going on) or outer (those who let the people around them know how they fill about something they are having trouble with every day). Mucho has characteristics of both Jason and Quentin to me in the same way. “He was a disk jockey who worked further along the peninsula and suffered regular crises of conscience about his profession. He believed too much in the lot, he believed not at all in the station” (p. 3&6). Mucho is stuck in the past about a job he once held and comparing it in a sense to the one he has. Quentin was stuck on the instance of when his life changed because Caddy was pregnant, Mucho does the same about his jobs. Jason focuses on the job he could have had a lot instead of the one he has.
    In THE SOUND AND THE FURRY third-person narration gives input more so on the characters more so than anything else. Even in third-person, there is a realistic view of the characters that draws one in by showing the emotions of the characters. The Crying of Lot 49 does not really showcase how the character feels about everything that is happening around her. There is no emotion investment to draw one in into The Crying of lot 49 and there is even in third-person accounts in THE SOUND AND THE FURRY. “She began to cry” (p. 30). While one might think there will be emotions in the actions of Oedipa crying there is no detail of why she is crying. And nothing that really brings upon a true connection to the character or details of what the reaction is for.

    I believe the Trystero will end up being something the character needed and has been looking for but didn’t know. There are a lot of text here and there about mail, so maybe something that was mailed to her that she couldn’t understand at the time that was confusing in one way or another. A message or clue for Oedipa either from her ex or her husband.

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    1. I like your comparison of Mucho to Jason and Quentin. After reading your response, it does seem that Mucho and Jason share a lot of similarities, especially regarding their jobs and expressions of distaste. That’s an interesting connection of Tristero and the mail, and you could be right. Mail is often talked about in this portion of the book, so there definitely could be an affiliation between the two.

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  9. The two novels – The Sound and the Fury and The Crying of Lot 49 – under examination utilize two different ways of characterizing their players.  In Sound and Fury, William Faulkner uses syntactical abnormalities to make the diction of the characters unique.  “She never was a queen or a fairy she was always a king or a giant or a general  I’d break that place open and drag them out and I’d whip them good,” (Faulkner 173), the narrator describes, as Quentin Compson mentally unravels at the end of his brief life.  This differs from Lot 49 because Thomas Pynchon utilizes small indicative phrases in the narrative but predominantly dialogue to express the values and traits in his characters.  “‘Fair then’ she gave in at last, trying for a brittle voice, ‘it’s a bet…that you all turn to carrion for the fish at the bottom of the Dardanelles, your daddy, your doggie, and you,’” (Pynchon 23), Oedipa quips.  Her wit apparent in her responses and her humanity apparent in the inklings of her mind, via the narrative.  The two novel utilize two very different techniques to flesh out their characters, but ultimately both succeed in illuminating their characters with verisimilitude.    
       
    The narration in Crying of Lot 49 conveys many similarities to the narration at the end of Faulkner’s Sound and the Fury.  Foremost, both narrators convey a folksy dialect that personifies the narration and creates a realistic storytelling voice.  The omnipresent all-knowing perspective seems to float from character to character, scene to scene, employing an attitude that elicits human sensibilities.  This is apparent in the description of Oedipa’s husband, Mucho, and his implicit, typical overreacting: “[T]he man was a refugee Hungarian pastry cook talking shop, but that was your Mucho: thin-skinned,” (Pynchon 4).  The narration seems to extend itself in a vulnerable posture, offering an opinion and subjective observation to the reader.  Pynchon’s narrator differs from Faulkner’s because the former’s exhibits a characterized attitude that offers a colorful spectrum of description; the latter’s (Faulkner) exhibits a more concise and sophisticated telling of the tale, but with the same likable relatability: “[S]ome looked at him as they passed, at the man sitting quietly behind the wheel of a small car, with his invisible life ravelled out about him like a wornout sock, and went on,” (Faulkner 313).  Both authors successful engage the reader on a person-to-person level through first-person narrative.  

    The mention of The Tristero is brief and cryptic – “so began, for Oedipa, the languid, sinister blooming of The Tristero” (Pynchon 39-40) – and eludes to an elaborate and horrible scenario sure to ensue.  The foreboding nature of the narration – and the ensuing metaphor describing The Tristero – creates a large cloud of potential strife moving rapidly over top of the plot.  Pynchon draws out the metaphor to that of a cabaret dancer stripping her clothes; he elaborates on the revelation of The Tristero very carefully, as not to reveal any sort of indicative verbiage.  “[A] plunge toward dawn indefinite black hours long would indeed be necessary before The Tristero could be revealed in its terrible nakedness,” (Pynchon 40).  Pynchon geniusly creates a sense of coiled up anticipation with mystical and coded language.    

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    1. I agree that both narrators utilize sociogeographic dialects in their narration. It is almost humorous to read this novel and imagine the terminology that was used at this period in American history. I also found it very funny that Pynchon explicitly states that The Paranoids, an American band sing in British accents because at the time the “British Invasion” was occurring in pop music and culture.

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    2. You mentioned that the “all-knowing perspective seems to float from character to character”, which I did not pick up on, but after glancing back at some passages, I agree with you. That is an interesting insight, but I guess I missed it because I took the narration to be more biased as some of the descriptions and observations of characters seemed subjective rather than objective. This type of narration is more entertaining, and as you mentioned personal, but I think Pynchon is able to engage us slightly more than Faulkner because of how smoothly the book reads.

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  10. Oedipa’s name is the first and clearest comparison to the main characters in The Sound and the Fury. Oedipa likely comes from Oedipus, the famous tragic Greek character, who unwittingly marries and reproduces with his mother. The indication of incest is here a parallel to Quentin and Caddy’s relationship in Faulkner’s novel, which, although not actually incestuous, is frequently described as such in Quentin’s section of the novel (in his attempt to claim ownership and responsibility for Caddy’s pregnancy). Mucho Maas, Oedipa’s husband, is another interestingly named character, a car salesman-turned-DJ who continually fails to believe in his work. His nickname, (cleverly translating into “much more”) while a fitting handle for a radio personality, would also suggest his desire for more in his life and in his career–a desire not unknown to Quentin and Caddy, and even Jason in The Sound and the Fury.

    The sections that narrate Oedipa’s perspective, as the most frequent and prolonged, would seem to be the most explorative, (perhaps even with usage of free indirect discourse) and thus the most similar to the final section of The Sound and the Fury. A fitting and humorous example of this occurs in the first chapter of Crying, during Oedipa’s meeting with Roseman. Roseman’s fixation with Perry Mason, mentioned twice in their brief meeting, and his failed attempt to seduce Oedipa are both indicators of his apparently hapless nature. The narration covers the intent and thoughts of Roseman while also conveying Oedipa’s disinterest, first by Roseman playing footsie, which Oedipa doesn’t notice, and then by his asking her to run away with him, which she brushes off, simply asking “Where?” The following line, “That shut him up,” briefly indicates that Oedipa has no romantic interest in Roseman and that he has no real romantic ambition (10).

    I would assume that the Trystero/Tristero is an illicit sexual ring of some kind, likely tied to whatever conspiracy Fallopian (a name referencing female anatomy) describes to Metzger and Oedipa at the bar. When Oedipa literally reads the writing on the wall of the women’s restroom in the bar, she sees a symbol that is likely tied to the name, underneath a message advertising “sophisticated fun” for whoever is interested (“the more the merrier”) (38). While Oedipa herself doubts that the meaning is sexual, the name itself has sexual implications (tryst). Additionally, it is named in The Courier’s Tragedy, a play laden with sexual mischief and topics like incest.

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    1. Your analysis of the Trystero mystery was very interesting! An “illicit sexual ring” was the farthest from my mind but you’ve made such a great case for it, it’ll be hard to revert back to my original guessing.

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  11. In terms of characterization similarities, as many of my peers have already pointed out, Oedipa and Caddy seem to share some things. The biggest similarity being their attempt at finding freedom through relationships with men. I suppose that’s due to the time period of both stories and so freedom (be it, financial or otherwise) is easier had through the shared status of a man. Other than that I immediately thought of Quentin when and how Mucho was first introduced. Mucho described as a “too sensitive” over thinker who’s “hyper awareness” was a never ending “exquisite torture”(4). Maybe it’s the way Oedipa seemed to belittle her shy husband and thus my own sympathetic reactions that link the two characters because I had felt the same pangs of pity for Quentin.

    When discussing verisimilitude in the story, there are very realistic interactions between Oedipa and Mucho, including small tension filled discussion about everyday things like taxs and then there are less realistic events like the meeting between herself and Roseman. There scene where he asks Oedipa to run away with him seemed to have no substance. It was built up and followed through the same way a spontaneous uneventful sneeze would be described. Very fast approaching and just as easily fleeting without much notice or mention thereafter. The line “‘Runaway with me,’ said Roseman when the coffee came'” proves my point further. The declaration was made as easily replaceable by any small talk dialogue.

    Both Faulkner and Pynchon managed narrators with a speedy voice. What I mean is, though they are in third person the lines flow fast and bounce around the way they would if they had been told in the voice of a character as through their stream of consciousness. Unlike most third person readings, this narrator seems opinionated and charismatic as if they could be a third character rather than a bodiless outside observe. Describing Oedipa’s relationship with her pills stating “she would be damned if she’d take the capsules he’d given her. Literally damned”. Echoing Oedipa’s feelings by emphasizing her distaste for the pills is an example of free indirect discourse and a technique also seen in Faulker’s “The Sound and Fury”.

    Because the tristero is described as the thing or event bringing “to an end her encapsulation in her tower”, the importance placed on the will, and Oedipa’s search for freedom (mostly through the association and connection with men) Im feeling like the tristero might be something in the will, intended for her that will alleviate any dependence. Maybe it’ll be money or a large chunk of land, but I’m hoping it is something that will allow her, her independence.

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    1. Your comparison to the characters in The Sound and the Fury made me see Mucho as a more sympathetic character than I had thought in my initial reading. And since the Tristero seems to be such a point of intrigue for Oedipa, it would make sense that it would be specifically for her, like a treasure she seeks throughout the novel.

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      1. I does seem as if Oedipa and Mucho’s relationship is almost made up and alludes to the artificial nature of their relationship since it can be easily replaced with other things.

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    2. I agree that Caddy and Oedipa are similar in their constant objectification by men in both The Crying of Lot 49 and The Sound and the Fury, which was a point I hadn’t earlier noticed. Your idea about The Trystero is also interesting; an organization of mail carriers (an otherwise inconspicuous occupation) would be a fitting cover for a group of truth-seekers.

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    3. I agree that while the dialogue between Mucho and Oedipa is realistic, the circumstances in which they interact aren’t. For example, the scene in which they have sex is quite peculiar. For one, there is a band playing right outside their room, she breaks a can of hairspray in the bathroom, which flies violently, and the hotel has a 30 foot nymph that resembles herself. These odd elements are found throughout the novel, which is telling of Pynchon’s writing style. For these reasons, I believe “The Sound and the Fury” is a more clear expression of verisimilitude.

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  12. Oedipa and Caddy have the most similar characterization due to their behavior. Caddy has an adulterous relationship which causes her husband to leave her, and Oedipa cheats on her husband with Metzger, and arguably, does just about as well as Caddy in covering it up considering a group of girls saw them together on the bathroom floor and one said, “That’s kinky” (Pynchon, 26). Comments made about certain characters may also fit well with their names, such as when Dr. Hilarius is described as “Pierce doing a Gestapo officer” (Pynchon, 7). Pynchon is not exactly being subtle when one of the first impressions of a man with the name Hilarius is a humorous comparison.
    Verisimilitude is not as prevalent as in the end of “The Sound and the Fury” did with Dilsey’s character. Although there is a third-person narrator, that narrator often describes characters how Oedipa may see them, such as with the above statement about Dr. Hilarius. There is one point when she drops a can of hairspray and it is stated that “The can knew where it was going, she sensed…” (Pynchon, 25). This personification of the can in Oedipa’s thoughts is more subjective than any of the descriptions in Dilsey’s section.
    The Trystero (or Tristero) seems to represent some significant idea, although I am not sure. It is said at the end of chapter three about the Trystero that “You could waste your life that way and never touch the truth” (Pynchon, 63), and this leads me to believe that it is something all people strive for, or to understand, but is impossible to. It is only after experience that they realize it is unobtainable, which is why they Oedipa says “we talked about the Trystero thing), because we want what we cannot have (Pynchon, 63).

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    1. While I agree with you about their similarities, I disagree with the use of the term adulterous. Yes, there are constructs of society (marriage) that are in effect, both women are representations of “modern women” who combat the patriarchally imposed regulations on sexual behavior. It is noted that Mucho Mass, Oedipa’s husband would and has also had extra-marital sexual relations and it is a common occurrence in American society for this behavior to “okay” for a man but not a woman.

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      1. I really like that you’ve pointed out the hypocrisy or bias often entangled with societies judgment. In fact although Oedipa’s actions didn’t really cause any negative opinion on my part, the fact that I hadn’t even noticed the story’s mentioning of Mucho’s acting out, is telling of my own conditioning.

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  13. 1) The construction of the characters in The Crying of Lot 49 differs from the construction of the characters in The Sound and the Fury significantly. Faulkner does not make use of innuendos as much as Pynchon does in the naming of his characters. It is clear by the use of such names that Pynchon has assigned each character personalities, that we the reader see via their behavior and attitudes expressed by the narrator. The most telling characterization allusion is seen in the main character, Oedipa Mass, an allusion to Freud’s Oedipal complex. This novel makes reference to a multitude of philosophical and psychological concepts, and the fact that the main character is the only female of note in the text is telling. It is also telling via the behavior of the male characters the objectification that Oedipa (the modern woman) experiences. Each has, wants or does have a sexual relationship with her: “Run away with me,’ said Roseman when the coffee came. ‘Where?’ She asked. That shut him up.” is just one example. While it is clear there is sexual tension toward Caddy in The Sound and the Fury, it is not as overt as it is presented in The Crying of Lot 49.
    2) The narrator of The Crying of Lot 49, is far more involved an attached to the characters than in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. While it is also third-person, the narrator makes less use of allusion and implication. The narrator of this novel is more specific, and potentially more philosophically introspective. “She could carry the sadness of the moment with her forever, see the world refracted through those tears, those specific tears, as if indices as yet unfound varied in important ways from cry to cry.” Here we have a passage that shows a more connected and frank understanding of the characters, while in a way alluding to deeper thoughts of Oedipa.
    3) The Trystero is an underground mail carrier organization. However, that is just the surface of it. It represents the non-conformist, fighting secretively the societal expectations of modern man. Conflicting with the society at large, and in a way attempting to educate those who seek “the truth.”

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  14. I agree that Caddy and Oedipa are similar in their constant objectification by men in both The Crying of Lot 49 and The Sound and the Fury, which was a point I hadn’t earlier noticed. Your idea about The Trystero is also interesting; an organization of mail carriers (an otherwise inconspicuous occupation) would be a fitting cover for a group of truth-seekers.

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  15. 1) Oedipa and Caddy are similar in a myriad of ways. First off, they both are constantly being consulted with the decisions they make. This in turn leaves them feeling like they have less control over their lives. In Caddy’s case, Quentin is obsessed with keeping Caddy from having sex, as he feels that it is the only way that she can remain pure. On the other hand, Oedipa feels trapped in her relationship with Pierce, as evident in one of her flashbacks (which happen very often in “The Sound and the Fury”). She thinks back to a time when she sees a painting made by Remedios Varo, which she sees as a reflection of her life: trapped in a tower, surrounded by a void, with no means of escape. They also seem to treat sex as a means of liberation, as it makes them feel like they have more control. Caddy is fascinated by Dalton Ames, whom impregnates her soon after they begin a relationship. Her family in turn reacts poorly to her decision, disowning her in the process. This leaves her in a state of loneliness, but she is finally free from outside opinion. In Oedipa’s case, she has sex out of wedlock with Metzger, as throughout the novel she attempts to learn her own identity. In regards to verisimilitude, each character is portrayed as an average woman living in the mid 1900s, oppression and all. “The Crying of Lot 49” strays from verisimilitude because the names are so ridiculous, along with the plot. “The Sound and the Fury” strays from verisimilitude because we learn about Caddy from outside sources; this in turn hides the whole truth of who she truly is.
    2) The narration from both stories differ in several ways. In “The Crying of Lot 49” there is only one narrator, while there are 4 in “The Sound and the Fury”. “The Crying of Lot 49” is also much more absurd, considering the plot and the glimpses into Oedipa’s hallucinations. “The Sound and the Fury” is much more realistic, although the characters also tend to be afflicted with madness. Both authors also like to implement figurative language into their works.
    3) The Trystero is a mail company that is in a centuries-old conflict with Thurn und Taxis, an actual mail company that existed. The Trystero could also be a conspiracy or a prank that is being pulled on Oedipa, or even a figment of her imagination. Her paranoia is a response to the many instances in which she sees the Trystero’s symbol. The symbol itself is a muted post horn with one loop, which could hint at a cult that is obsessed with new means of communication.

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  16. 1. The characterization of Oedipa Maas can in some ways compare to the characterization of Caddy Compson’s character. In “The Sound and the Fury”, we see Caddy Compson from different points of view at different ages, but the overall characterization of her is a young promiscuos woman who has a child. In “The Crying of Lot 49” Oedipa is a grown woman we are introduced to, who seems to be in a very weird spot in her relationship with her boyfriend being a lost disk jockey. Although her life isn’t as confusing as the Compson’s, she is also very promiscuos as she has an affair with the lawyer Metzger, “She awoke at last to find herself getting laid; she’s come in on a sexual crescendo in progress…” on page 29. Also, leading up to theri sexual act, they played a drunken strip game.
    2. Pynchon’s narrator compares to Faulkner’s narrator because both styles of writing are very similar. With both narrators, the speaker’s speech prlongs and has a lot of run on thoughts. With Pynchon’s character Oedipa, her rapid thoughts and run on passages are similar the character’s of The Sound and the Fury, being that her thoughts seem to jump from one memory to the next in the same passage. But on the other hand, both stories differ due to there seems to be one narrator in “The Crying of Lot 49” as opposed to the different narrators in “The Sound and the Fury”. But, both stories are confusing to read due to the constant jumps from one memory to the next, making it a little hard to tell if the memories are from the past or if the characters are still in the present.
    3. After reading two different passages that mention the Trystero/Tristero gives me the notion that this word is the name of a strip club or a brothel. The first mention that I see of this word “Tristero” is on page 39-40. In the passage it describes a rather racy scene, “So began, for Oedipa, the languid, sinister blooming of The Tristero. Or rather, her attendance at some unique performance, prolonged as if it were the last of the night, something a little for whoever’d stayed this late. As if the breakaway gowns, net bras. jeweled garters and G-strings of historical figuration…” The next mention of the word Trystero is on page 58, “Now recks no lord but the stiletto’s Thorn…”

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  17. 1) Caddy and Oedipa are actually more similar than I thought they would be. While reading this novel, I was able to see some characterizations that made Oedipa seem more and more relatable. In “The Sound and the Fury,” Caddy was a young, promiscuous woman. Her actions were not liked at all by Quentin, and therefore made him develop this form of resentment toward her. In “The Crying of Lot 49,” the reader gets some very vivid quotes regarding Oedipa’s sexual acts: “She awoke at last to find herself getting laid; she’s come in on a sexual crescendo in progress…” (Pynchon 29). This quote is depicting the moment where Oedipa had an affair with Metzger while being in a relationship with her car salesman/ DJ boyfriend, Mucho Maas. Their sense of finding themselves lead these characters to these acts when in reality all they desire is to be free from their inner demons.

    2) The Sound and the Fury was written in third person, which gave it a more realistic tone overall. It allowed the reader to get a closer insight as to what each invidvidual character is like. In The Crying of Lot 49, we do not get that close insight to the character. The reader is not really aware of what the characters feel toward any particular situation. The tone in this novel makes it seem more distant and disconnected from the character as it tells their story.
    3) I believe the Trystero has something to do with mail. All through the novel there is talk about mail. I’m not sure if it would be in the form of an actual letter or simply just some wisdom that will metaphorically be delivered to her. The trystero is what eventually will set her free and will be the truth to all her concerns.

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  18. 1. I think that each character in both The Sound and the Fury and The Crying of Lot 49 have distinct personalities. Oedipa is a housewife that is looking for answers. She is persistant but not always able to speak her mind. Mucho is a masculine character that doesn’t take much responsibility, “I’m too horny, now. What should I be is a young father, a big brother” (page 6). Banjy was mentally challenged and his perception of things were apparent in The Sound and the Fury in a similar way. The verisimilitude in both of these books are similar in the way the characters think and speak. The main difference is that The Sound and The Fury is not in chronological order and The Crying of Lot 49 is, but the story is much more far-fetched.

    2.Pynchon’s narrator is similar to Faulkner’s last narrator in that they both are in third-person and they both contain detailed and accurate descriptions of physical surroundings. “A great shout went up near the doorway, bodies flowed toward a fattish young man who’d appeared carrying a leather mailsack over his shoulder” (page 37).

    3. I think the Trystero is the opposing mail service company. The mail address on page 38 with the symbol is a good clue.

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  19. I agree that Faulkner and Pynchon both have the third person narrator in common. I also thought, over all, that the lack of shifting of the narrator, like Faulkner, was easier to follow and get a feel of what was going on

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