Concluding (inconclusively) The Crying of Lot 49

When most people finish reading The Crying of Lot 49, they feel like they are in the same position as Oedipa Maas, with whom we have identified throughout the novel: wondering whether the Trystero exists, or whether it was a hoax perpetrated on her by Pierce Inverarity to draw her out of her suburban ignorance and isolation. Of course, that sentence does not exhaust the possibilities!

 

First, a few comments on the first blog responses on Pynchon. Oedipa Maas does not get rich as a result of being made Inverarity’s literary executor, and she does not particularly seek freedom from her husband. I would also note that Oedipa’s relationship with Metzger appears to be consensual, as it develops, and in this novel, casual sex is casual, not the alleged cause of entire family’s downfall, as it is with Caddy Compson.

And while the California culture and landscape may seem be portrayed realistically, and while the characters may speak colloquially, the Dickensian names alone, the characters’ nutty behavior, and the crazily absurd plot, do not display verisimilitude at all. Pynchon is not only not trying to convince us that these characters are real, but he’s actively making them unreal with allegorical names that match their personality and/or situation (rather than resembling names that real people born in California in this era might be called), giving them preposterous plots to march through, exaggerated behaviors (think of Mucho and Pierce—yes, some people may be good at imitating others, and some may have done drugs in this era, but to this extent?), and so on.

 

My dear students, the TONE of this novel is absurd and often comic (even as it treats very serious subject matter seriously, like the deaths of American soldiers, the legacy of the Holocaust, poverty and isolation, etc.), which is a stark contrast to the typically solemn tone of Faulkner’s novel. Yes, some passages in Jason Compson’s section may occasionally seem like car chases in “The Dukes of Hazard,” and his offensive views may be darkly comical, but we are meant to believe in him utterly as a realistic character representing his time, place, and class.

 

Another point about style: Pynchon does NOT use stream of consciousness, which is used by first-person narrators and is often marked by unconventional punctuation and lapses from correct grammar to convey the stream of thought. Long, complex sentences, correctly punctuated, are often associated with a quick pace in terms of plot and with argument in terms of structure, though they can also list many events as occurring quickly. Think of the long lines of Ginsberg’s “Howl”—that poem reads more quickly, does it not, than Williams’s “Spring and All”? This has to do with long lines with little punctuation versus shorter lines. Sentence length matters, but stream of consciousness is not simply characterized by long sentences. And while it is true that Pynchon’s third-person narrator is typically aligned with Oedipa’s point of view, as Faulkner’s third-person narrator is with Dilsey’s in the last section of The Sound and the Fury, this is very different than the first-person narration we get with Benjy, Quentin, and Jason.

 

All that said, I’ve decided to wait—perhaps to your frustration, though perhaps I’m just treating you like Pynchon’s narrator treat Oedipa—to post my Mini Lecture on Pynchon’s novel until you write your response to this blog post. I’m curious about your thoughts before I make more sense of the novel for you, which I promise I will!

1.) Which of the four possibilities about the Trystero, which the narrator outlines in the final chapter, seem to you the most plausible, and why? (Did it remind you of a conspiracy theory in any way?) Be sure to paraphrase the four possibilities and cite evidence to support your answer. See 82-83, 87-107, especially 91 and 100-101, 131-137, 138-141.

2.) What are some elements of the narration, characterization, and/or tone that seem to you unrealistic, perhaps exaggerated and absurd? Cite and analyze evidence.

3.) How are themes of isolation and/or miscommunication developed in the novel? Cite one example.

4.) What was your experience of reading the novel, overall? What did you enjoy and appreciate? What frustrated you?

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59 Comments

  1. 1.) Which of the four possibilities about the Trystero, which the narrator outlines in the final chapter, seem to you the most plausible, and why? (Did it remind you of a conspiracy theory in any way?) Be sure to paraphrase the four possibilities and cite evidence to support your answer. See 82-83, 87-107, especially 91 and 100-101, 131-137, 138-141.

    I could honestly believe the Trystero to be one huge practical joke ran by Pierce in order to mess with Oedipa, and it definitely seemed to have worked against her. The possibility of the Trystero being a real service seems rather absurd (much like the entire book), and while there seems to be a lot of ties in with historical events, it doesn’t exactly seem like it’s genuine. The joke does happen to mess with Oedipa’s head frequently, however, because there are so many associations with the so-called organization that it effectively makes her believe it’s real. Pierce Inverarity definitely had the funds to pull something like this, since it is a plot that is “so expensive and elaborate, involving items like the forging of stamps and ancient books, constant surveillance of your movements, planting of post horn images all over San Francisco…” (106)

    2.) What are some elements of the narration, characterization, and/or tone that seem to you unrealistic, perhaps exaggerated and absurd? Cite and analyze evidence.

    I think most parts that involved Dr. Hilarius was quite exaggerated and absurd. The whole twist of him revealing himself to be a Nazi doctor who just smokes a bunch of LSD makes no sense at all and comes out of nowhere. The countless allusions in the book are quite surprising, though. The Paranoids, for example, is such an obvious allusion to The Beatles, and there is a direct reference to Pynchon’s teacher, Vladimir Nabokov whenever the song made by The Paranoids mentions “nymphets”. “For me, my baby was a woman/ For him, she’s just another nymphet.” (90)

    3.) How are themes of isolation and/or miscommunication developed in the novel? Cite one example.

    Oedipa’s entire characterization revolves around isolation, and trying to find value in her life. Perhaps the reason why she’s seeking out Tystero in the first place is because she’s trying to find an escape for this void she finds herself trapped in. She does so many ridiculous things in order to find enjoyment in her life as well. Take for example whenever Oedipa plays strip poker with one of the members of The Paranoids. To me, I think it was a rather impulsive thing to do, especially since this was after learning about her boyfriend’s death. Throughout the story too, I believe Oedipa barely gets any help from any of the other cast members of the book as well. She even has a gun pointed at her and she barely gets any help with settling Pierce’s will.

    4.) What was your experience of reading the novel, overall? What did you enjoy and appreciate? What frustrated you?

    I honestly didn’t like this book at all, but I think it’s mostly because the way it was done for the class. I think this book should probably be read to be enjoyed first, rather than diving in head first trying to understand what’s going on. I’ve read probably the first half of the book several times trying to figure it out, but it honestly made me more frustrated than everything because generally, I think the book isn’t good. I’ve read the book in several different lens as well. I tried reading it like a mystery book, and trying to uncover what Trystero is. That barely works, because the book barely gives you clues to figure it out. I tried reading it as a comedy or a parody of postmodernism. I just thought it wasn’t funny. I tried taking it easy and reading it, but by then, I think it was far too late to do that. I just didn’t like the book. I easily enjoyed The Sound and the Fury way more than The Crying of Lot 49.

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    1. I agree with you, I thought this book was frustrating and hard to read when you cannot just enjoy it for the weird novel it is. I also really enjoyed The Sound and The Fury but I did not like this book.

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    2. I agree with you that Trystero can be seen as just one big joke because it did not have many plausible aspects. Yes, I too found the novel difficult to understand and agree that because it was an assignment it makes it harder to appreciate. I tend to find most novels that we are “forced” to read to be boring because we are not doing it out of pleasure but out of necessity.

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    3. I believe that it is all one big joke as well and nothing has enough details. I didn’t enjoy the book either no matter which way you try to read the story it just doesn’t spark the way a book should. I enjoyed The Sound and the Fury far better than this as well.

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    4. I agree that the Trystero is one big joke. It seems to make sense as Pierce and Oedipa were once a couple. He would know how to draw her into the mystery and mess with her head. It seems like an extreme way to mess with you ex but over the top seems to be a theme of the story.

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    5. It almost seems as if Oedipa is trying to stay isolated in my opinion because, although she does go to her lawyer for help, she doesn’t seem to take it to heart and then goes by herself to deal with the repercussions of Pierce’s death. Regarding Tristero, Oedipa seems to retreat into herself further. I do agree that the book was very hard to read and I’ve enjoyed other readings we’ve done in the class way more than this.

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    6. I agree with your thought that going into this reading with an analytical view had an effect on our ability to understand and enjoy it. That’s the case for a lot of class assignments where right off the bat, I’m looking for quotes to pull or allusions starting from the first sentence and with a almost whimsical piece like this, I think it would’ve helped to have been able to read through for fun. Of course that’s a personal problem (being unable to read through without pressure disrupting our interest) however again, considering its nature it definitely would’ve helped our ability to match the character’s “go with the flow” attitude in even the most absurd of scenes.

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    7. I love the allusion that you discovered between The Paranoids and The Beatles! Very interesting! I think it goes great with the statements of Dr. Hilarius doing an bunch of LSD, which is probably the reason that he is all over the place. I don’t think many people in this class liked this book. It was an experience reading it for sure, but everyone has their own taste.

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  2. 1. The way the final chapter plays out, it seems like Trystero is nothing more than a practical joke which would mean that Pierce is still alive. If not, then it is definitely a conspiracy of some sort. In chapter 4 Mike Fallopian tells her that a man named Koteks is part of a conspiracy that is, “an underground of the unbalanced, possibly, but then how can you blame them…In school they get brainwashed…into believing the Myth of the American Inventor..” (Pynchon, 88) and the passage continues on about how it wasn’t one man that invented so many great things but multiple people. But between the practical joke theory and a conspiracy that gores on around Opedia, I think I would have to go with the later.

    2. This novel has some realistic elements to it, but is has some unrealistic ones as well. Fallopian’s conspiracy theory about Koteks seems to be unbelievable and completely unrealistic. Although, Koteks’ own ideas are pretty crazy as well. Koteks theory about ‘sensitives’ and a machine where, “All you had to do as stare at the photo of Clerk Maxwell and concentrate o the cylinder…you wanted the Demon to raise the temperature in” (Pynchon, 86). A machine the raises the temperature with only a thought? Sound pretty unbelievable to me.

    3. Opedia throughout the novel is constantly isolated, even when she is with other people. Ever since she first heard about this mysterious ‘Trystero’ she wants nothing more than to find out what it means. While trying to find out what Trystero is, she plays poker with strangers, has sex with a man who is out her husband, and lies to some people in order to get answers. I think she does all this to try and fill a void in her life, but nothing can satisfy her loneliness and feelings of isolation.

    4. Honestly speaking, I don’t care much about this novel. I enjoy an exciting book as much as the next person, but I prefer a good fantasy novel with magic and mystery and romance. I don’t mind the occasional period novel, like something that is set during the Vietnam War or WWII when the characters are at the war in question, but the plot could not capture my interest. Also, to be honest, while I appreciate classic literature, I prefer a more modern novel with references that I am able to understand.

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    1. I agree with you that Oedipa is trying to feel a void in her life. She gets so immersed in Trystero that she loses touch with reality.
      I also did not like this novel at all. This book was weird and confusing. It is definitely not a book I would pick up and read again.

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    2. I do agree that Oedipa is constantly isolated throughout the novel and she doesn’t have much help from anyone and she is alone.She seeks for something that is nothing but a joke. She is a lonely person and at the end she becomes very emotional when she is separated from her husband. I pretty much feel bad for her because she goes to solve a mystery that Pierce gave her,but she gives her nothing but a slap in the face.

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    3. I agree with what you say about Oedipa. Although she is constantly with people, she is never really fully engaged. She has all of these questions in her head but doesn’t voice them completely and in some cases just hopes that the answers will just come to her.

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    4. I agree with your postulation that the entire novel is fraught with discombobulating clues. All of which initially, and at face value, seem absurd. The inclusion of the peculiar names of characters and places only exacerbates the craziness of it all. Pynchon masterfully – which I agree with you – composes his work to at the end reveal a sort of discernable pattern amongst the clatter.

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  3. I think, after reading the last chapter, that Trystero is all just one big joke. This ultimately makes the most sense. Of course, this whole confusing novel would end up being based around one big practical joke. It makes sense that it would be a joke because it would be way too crazy if it really was a big conspiracy. “Has it ever occurred to you, Oedipa, that somebody’s putting you on? That this is all a hoax, maybe something Inverarity set up before he died?” (138). I think this shows that it is all a big joke. It also makes sense because of the fact that Pierce is said to be a jokester and likes to imitate people. This could definitely all be one big way to mess with Oedipa. I just cannot buy into the fact that it could actually be true.

    I thought the part with Dr. Hilarious was pretty crazy. I thought she was going to get help, “She wanted Hilarious to tell her she was some kind of a nut and needed a rest, and that there was no Trystero,” (107). I thought it was ironic that his name was Hilarious and that she was hoping that he could help her but he ended up being the crazy one. His story all around was just plain weird. He is suppose to be helping people but then all the sudden he is crazy and she ends up having to get the gun away from him. I thought that part was confusing and weird.

    The themes of isolation are developed in the novel first by Oedipa going away to figure out Pierce’s will. I think her setting off to figure this out is her first step into be isolated. Then by the time she gets back to her husband he is totally a different person. I think because she isolated herself by trying to figure out the will and then getting immersed in the Trystero conspiracy she lost track of her husband and what he was doing. Then she is totally isolated from her husband because she does not know who he is anymore. This whole will and Trystero thing has left her utterly alone and confused.

    I did not like this novel at all. It was confusing and was not interesting for me. Because of how confusing and all over the place it was I just could not appreciate it. I think if I gave it another read I might like it better but I do not know if I could get myself to read it again.

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    1. I completely agree with you that the novel was very confusing however that is why it did catch my attention because it was very different from other novels that we read. It was a challenge which made it sort of fun to read because it was like solving many different little puzzles to gain the whole picture.

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    2. I also agree that Dr.Hilarius was a exaggerated character because he is carrying a huge guilt from his past that he loses his mind on Oedipa at one point. For being a Nazi doctor in the past really haunted him. He shouldn’t be a doctor if he is also the one that needs help.

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    3. I believe that it was one big joke and in the back of Opedias mind she believed it was one as well. She just does not want to give up the freedom from isolation she was in. I did not like the novel at all as well, a novel can be different without being confusing.

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    4. I agree that basically every scene with Dr. Hilaris was a huge exaggeration and absurd. The twist that he is a LSD smoking Nazi was crazy and came out of nowhere. Even his name is a play on “hilarious” so it is obvious he was meant to be cosmetically over the top.

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    5. It’s nice to see I am not the only person who found this novel confusing. With your supposed conclusion that Trystero is one big joke, then it just makes the novel all the more confusing. If Trystero was a joke, then what was the point of Opedia’s journey to discovering what it was?! I also like how you said that Opedia’s first moment of isolation was when she left for the reading of Pierce’s will. I knew she was isolated for most of the novel, but I forgot where it started from.

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    6. I definitely agree with you about the confusing and uninteresting elements of the book. Every time I felt like my interest could be piqued, I got distracted and bored by endless details and the sort of rambling prose that Pynchon is so famous for. It’s a real bummer because I feel as though there could be a really good story somewhere amid all that detail.

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    7. I totally thought it was ironic that his name was Dr. Hilarius as well! He was a very odd and crazy character that definitely should not have been a doctor.

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    8. I agree with you, the Trystero being a joke seems to make the most sense. I also agree that Oedipa leaving her husband to discover Pierce’s will does show the theme of isolation. The novel was confusing.

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    9. I think another student had mentioned all the historical tie ins adding to the believability of the Trystero’s existence but like you, the last few pages really solidified my verdict, that it is most likely a big joked. Backed by a drug induced paranoia, coincidence, and perhaps a conspiring practical joker Pierce, I agree that the mystery will have a let down reveal. The last paragraph on page 150 to the first on page 151 go back on forth saying the events could lead to a great “transcendental” truth or nothing at all and its this paragraph that concinces me most, that Oedipa’s journey has really just been a nasty head game.

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  4. 1. As an authentic association, Trystero most likely capacities as a red herring, an endless maze in which Oedipa (and the reader) can get lost. Be that as it may, Trystero additionally constitutes the endless typical system that constitutes the book. Its typical representation recommends that the customary methods for correspondence (like mail and books) are inconsistent, and that other methods for correspondence must be embraced. I think the possibility of Trystero being a joke as a real plausible aspect because it is constantly messing with Oedipa heads and even gets the reader frustrated at times. At one point, Oedipa thinks of “how tenuous it was, like a long white hair, over a century long” (Pynchon).
    2. One aspect that I find absurd and exaggerated is the depiction of California and America as a whole. The Crying of Lot 49 doesn’t precisely show the sort of vision of California that the Golden State would use in its tourism advertisements. Pynchon’s perspective of California history (and, truly, all of U.S. history) is super-neurotic. He goes on to poke a stick at right wing extremist, “”Who cares? We don’t try to make scripture out of it. Naturally that’s cost us a lot of support in the Bible Belt, where we might’ve been expected to go over real good. The old Confederacy” (Pynchon). In this novel, we see that the presence of a counterculture is significant to the strength of America since America is a nation established around an anxious vision about concentrated power. Oedipa Maas’ vision of America is shallow. At the end of the novel, she just superimposes her own particular faculties of claustrophobia, despondency, and distrustfulness onto the nation all in all.
    3. There is almost no sense of affection or human warmth in The Crying of Lot 49. From the earliest starting point, Oedipa Maas feels completely detached and alone. She has a genuine sense that the void is simply underneath her feet, and she doesn’t get by with assistance from her so called friends. For example, when she sees the tattooed sailor, “She was overcome all at once by a need to touch him, as if she could not believe in him, or would not remember him, without it”(Pynchon). As mind boggling as the novel moves toward becoming, at some level it can be interpreted basically as Oedipa’s endeavor to escape from the sentiment of being alone and her endeavor to locate a genuine human association. However, we know that it does not end very well.
    4. I did enjoy the novel just because it was different from most of the novels I tend to read. However, it was a bit frustrating trying to keep up with the plot and what was realistic and what was not. The novel seemed to jump all over the place making it difficult to comprehend everything the plot, I found myself having to reread some paragraphs or else I would have been completely lost in understanding the novel.

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    1. I think for the most part, this is one of the few books that I felt like I had to reread several paragraphs over and over again. I think I’ve probably reread the first chapter a couple of times, and maybe that contributes to why I began disliking the book. I think it was just beginning to get tiring.

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    2. I agree with your assessment about the Trystero being a red herring to get lost in. I find it interesting how you see it as a parallel to the reader being lost in the details of the novel since that is something I most certainly struggled with throughout the entirety of the novel. Maybe that’s the point Pynchon is making, that we get too caught up in details.

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    3. I disagree with your postulation that there is no affection or warmth in the novel. I believe there is, but I believe it is an isolated sort of reliance that Oedipa acquires. Her lonliness becomes her companion, and in turn, she becomes reliant and self-appointed. The self-awareness she acquires is admirable but she does not need the validation or assurance others need in order to appreciate their own value.

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  5. While reading the story I couldn’t really see where it could be a conspiracy at. However, there were hints that it could be something underground, but that all could’ve been just hints at something more to throw us off. In the back of my head, it is still that what if it all was real and just a secret that was to unfold if you really looked at all the hints the book gave. I believe that the whole Trystero was a joke, a more so one more for the road sort of thing. A way for Oedipa’s ex to pull one last prank on her. I believe the beginning of the book foreshadowed that it was all a joke when Oedipa talked about the prank call she received from her ex. When Oedipa is looking in the different books she does not see the mention of the Trystero in the earlier editions of the book as she does in hers. “Then where, Oedipa wondered, does the paperback I bought at Zapf’s get off with its Trystero line?” (82). The book she reads has a different sentence than what she would like it to be. The line would have given her the evidence she needed that it was all real if it was there.
    One of the areas that seemed unreal to me was when Oedipa went to Dr. Hilarius office. “You could’ve run, she said” (108). Dr. Hilarius sometimes receptionist stayed in his office after he locked himself in his room and shot at people. However, she didn’t run out of the building or call the police and instead stayed because she was worried about if he would need her or not. Oedipa after telling the receptionist that she could’ve run went into the office with Dr. Hilarius who had a gun instead of leaving and calling the police. That whole scene was even more unbelievable than her going into stranger houses all because she wanted to see if something was real.
    The first sign of isolation is at the beginning of the book. “And had also gently conned herself into the curious, Rapunzel-like role of a pensive girl somehow, magically, prisoner among the pines and salt fogs of Kineret, looking for somebody to say hey, let down your hair” (10). Oedipa is isolated in her town and stuck in the role of being her husband’s wife. She has lost herself in those roles that revolve around her husband. The letter from Pierce was her finally finding something or someone to call out for her to let down her hair. The journey for the Trystero was her finding herself again.
    I didn’t really care for or enjoy anything about the book it was more so frustrating. I don’t like to read books that are complicated-frustrated instead of making me emotionally frustrated. It wasn’t a story that flowed smoothly which I would have really liked. I couldn’t get lost in the story and for me, if I cannot get lost in the story it is not a point in reading it.

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    1. Dr. Hilarius was unrealistic to me as well from the start. His character was so overwhelmingly bad that it was a point of contention for me throughout the book. He was also a reason I couldn’t get completely into the book, which made me not like the novel as much.

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      1. I felt the opposite. I took the book too seriously in the beginning and was trying to make sense of these characters, and understand why Pynchon would give them ridiculous names and characteristics. The passage in which he admits to being a Nazi doctor was the point in the book, admittedly late, when I stopped taking things seriously and started to enjoy the absurdity of the circumstances and characters. I went back to the first few pages and noticed that Oedipa compared Dr. Hilarius to Pierce doing an SS officer impression, which makes this later realization even funnier to me. I do not think this is the type of book that makes sense in one reading, and is made less frustrating after a second or third go.

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    2. When Oedipa didn’t find the word Trystero in the book is a good example that Pierce was playing a joke on her. I like your example of the theme of isolation in the novel. I agree with you, the novel was complicated and frustrating at times.

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  6. 1. In the final chapter, I believe that Trystero was nothing but a joke because of Pierce. Reading the novel was really confusing to understand because there is a whole conspiracy that is taken part of it. It makes me feel sort of bad about Oedipa because Pierce pretty much fooled her. Trystero shows the conspiracy of Oedipa trying to solve the puzzle and mystery that Pierce gave her after he died. “We await silent tristero’s empire,” Oedipa doesn’t really know what is going on and she doesn’t realize that the whole will is a joke (139). She invests her time in something that in reality is nothing but a real joke. She should have known that Pierce was a jokester since she used to dated him, but in fact created a huge mess with her.
    2. Dr Hilarius in the novel is the most interesting,yet exaggerated character because one he is crazy and second he reveals in the story that he was a doctor for the Nazis. “He’s gone crazy. I tried to call the police, but he took a chair and smashed the switchboard with it,” this shows that Oedipa was speaking to him and that out of know where Dr. Hilarius gone crazy on her (108). He assumed that Oedipa was there to kill him so he turned on her. His past cause him to lose his ind and has haunted him with the guilt. A huge burden that he will carry for the rest of his life.
    3.Throughout the novel the isolated character was Oedipa because she is alone through the story and she only receives little help.Even her husband is not much help because he goes crazy on LSD which alienated Oedipa and it seems that she is trying to find some kind of value in her life and she starts to believe in Trystero. She is trying to have some meaning in her life,but at the end she is alone. When Pierce left her a will it gave her a reason to seek something missing in her life, but at the end it was a joke.
    4. I somewhat found the novel confusing at one point and I didn’t understand the point of why Pierce did a will for Oedipa that was considered only a joke. She’s been through a lot and at the end she finds out it was a joke. I really didn’t like the novel because it didn’t spark any interest while reading it. The novel didn’t give details of Oedipa that i wanted to know just parts of it.

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    1. It seems like I am not the only one who did not like reading this novel. If Trystero is a joke, then it was a very cruel joke to play on her. I agree that the novel lacked details that I also wanted to know about as well as the other characters. I also think Dr. Hilarius was the craziest character and probably the least realistic character as well.

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  7. 1.) Perhaps its because I personally feel duped by the ending of the novel but as of now, with the information and analysis of the piece thus far, I feel the mystery of the Trystero is most likely to be revealed as a long elaborate hoax on Oedipa. If this is the theory to stick with, it would mean Pierce would still be alive and behind the entire thing. He knew her well enough to know her curiosity would never allow rest and Oedipa would never truly give up even if she wanted to. Her personality, her occasional drug abuse, and Pierce’s power are the perfect recipe to make a scandal out of a great big deal of nothing. Every character, every hint, and every half inch deeper into the mystery the farther away from reality Oedipa gets and as proclaimed by the narrator “she might well be in the cold and sweatless meathooks of a psychosis”(107). With nothing to show by the end of the novel its clear to see there was never any hard evidence to fall back on but instead a mirage of “coincidences blossoming these days wherever she looked, she had nothing but a sound, a word, Trystero, to hold them together”(89).
    2.) The book reminded me a lot of Netflix’s take on “A Series of Unfortunate Events” where everything is quirky and crazy but because of its fast pace (and the fact that no one ever really stops to acknowledge the crazy) the world as its shown almost seems normal the more the audience and actors become familiar with it. Besides all the side quests Oedipa goes off on, the most unrealistic moments had to be the encounter with Hilarius. I mean even his name is a dead giveaway at the lack of seriousness. One of the weirdest moments was when Oedipa asked nurse Blamm (who had just been crying about needing to call the cops to stop the crazed LSD induced Nazi) why she didn’t just leave through the window. Her response? After making a nice piping hot cup of instant coffee “looked up quizzical. ‘ He could need somebody'”(108). Even weirder is Blamm sending Oedipa up to the gunman with a casual remark about keeping her problems to herself for this visit, Oedipa’s complete disinterest in what a crazy man could “need” someone there for besides as victims, and Hilarius’ concern he’ll get a swift “karate-chop in the spine”. The entire scene reads like a terrible dream.
    3.) Isolation is a major theme throughout, one of the first and most prominent is a notion expressed by Oedipa herself as she constantly describes herself as an “Repunzel” figure trapped away in a tower. This is probably one of the first things I think about when considering isolation in the work as it comes up again and again especially when she first discovers what the Trystero could be and considers it a possible key to her freedom.
    4.) I didn’t like the novel at all. As many of my classmates have already mentioned, there were so many instances where I had to go back and read a passage or chapter over and over and over again to find any substance at all. A part of me liked the mystery aspect and that same part absolutely hated the vague ending. Though much like Oedipa who never could quite grasp why the Trystero mystery could “menace her so”(107) I am still unable to drop it and despite all my frustrations am looking forward to some great revelation in the upcoming lecture. I really hope there are tons of hints I missed that will offer any help in unveiling the mystery.

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    1. I like how you mentioned that it reminded you of the Netflix series A Series of Unfortunate Events, because i too felt the similarities between this and the novel. I liked how both praised the quirky craziness that each form does well. Great response.

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  8. For me, none of the options seem plausible, including the prank one. We don’t know very much about Pierce, but it doesn’t seem logical that he would put this much work into a huge prank on a long-ago ex-girlfriend, and Oedipa doubts this as well: “Did she know why Driblette had put those two extra lines that night? Had “he” even known why?” (Pynchon 133). The other answers, secret assemblies and weird mail businesses in the 1800s, aren’t plausible either. This seems like Oedipa having a downward spiral with her mental illness after Metzger leaves and she realizes her husband is on LSD. I think she’s grasping at straws to connect herself to something bigger that might not actually exist.

    Every scene with Dr. Hilarius was completely absurd, as some of my other colleagues have pointed out. There was nothing realistic about him from calling at 3 am in his first scene to his secret Nazism. I’m unsure what purpose he played within the story, if any at all, but all of his scenes were ridiculous and unrealistic. If a doctor called me at 3 am to have a chat about nightmares and medicine, I would be finding a new doctor.

    The easiest example is, of course, Oedipa. Her embodiment is isolation and miscommunication as we see when she finally goes back home to her husband and she only just finds out he’s on LSD: “She stared at the pills in it, and then understood. ‘That’s LSD?’” (Pynchon 117). Her almost complete isolation from her husband results in an addiction to LSD from her doctor, a pretty harsh consequence for not communicating.

    I did not enjoy reading “The Crying Lot of 49,” and I’m not sure if it was because it was for an assignment or the novel itself did not fit my aesthetics. I’ve enjoyed some of the reading we’ve done in this class, but this one I honestly dreaded reading it. I couldn’t understand what was going on most of the time and I did not like any of the main characters. The plot, for me, was a huge letdown, especially since we never even found out what Trystero was. All in all, I prefer “Sound and the Fury” and “A Supermarket in America” to this novel.

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  9. 1. The four possibilities about the Trystero are:
    -Mike Fallopian told Oedipa that the Trystero could be a prank that Inverarity is pulling on her, “Has it ever occurred to you, Oedipa, that somebody’s putting you on?” (Page 138).
    -Oedipa is imaging everything about the Trystero, “Either the Trystero did exist, in its own right, or it was being presumed, perhaps fantasied by Oedipa” (Page 88).
    -The trystero is a part of W.A.S.T.E., a secret mail service that rivals the Thurn and Taxis postal service. W.A.S.T.E. stands for “We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire” (page 139).
    -Oedipa simply found a rare edition of the play that had been altered by the publisher, “But the ‘Whitechapel’ edition, besides being a fragment, abounds in such corrupt and probably spurious lines, as we have mentioned elsewhere, and is hardly to be trusted” (page 82).
    I think that Pierce had set everything up. I think he started the mail company and named it based off of a corrupt line from a rare edition of a play.

    2. When Oedipa arrives at Emory Bortz’s house, it appears that he is surrounded by drunk students. Later we find out that they are suddenly grieving for a friend. “He’s dead, and this is a wake” (page 125). Finding out that this part was a wake and not a party was surprising to me. It seemed like it took a sudden spin in my opinion.

    3. Oedipa seems to not say what she actually means at times. She will answer with no, when she really knows the answer.
    “Did you ever see the one about Porky Pig and the anarchist?”
    She had, as a matter of fact, but she said no” (Page 73).

    4. I enjoyed the novel, but I did have to reread certain parts to fully understand it. Although, I think I might not fully understand it now, but I do enjoy the story and the unique style of writing.

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    1. I certainly agree with you about the novel in how it was enjoyable even if has those frustrating moments and causing us to reread certain sections. This is definitely a unique style of writing which is like it even more. and yes most of the sections in novel are not completely clear but i feel that is done on purpose. Great response.

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  10. In the Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon, Oedipa Maas, as well as the reader, tries to figure out the Trystero. After reading the final chapter of the novel it seems the chapter is nothing more than a practical joke played on Oedipa by her ex-lover Pierce. At one point towards the end of the novel, Fallopian asks Opedia if she “had ever considered that somebody [was] putting [her] on? That this is all a hoax, maybe something Inverarity set up before he died?” (Pyncho 138). It would make sense that he would want to mess with her like this and, considering they once were in a relationship, he would know her well enough to be able to create an elaborate hoax that would keep her attention. With all the “coincidences blossoming” throughout the story, it does seem like a big conspiracy (Pynco 89). And like most conspiracy theories it is difficult to find concrete evidence to back it up. The most absurd character in the story had to be Dr. Hilarius. His introduction to the reader is him calling his patient, Oedipa, at 3 in the morning and eventually asks her “did I call you” which is an odd thing for a doctor to ask when he did indeed call at an equally odd hour (Pyncho 8). Then we later find out he is a Nazi. Even his name seems to be a play on the word “hilarious”. Oedipa is used to embody both isolation and miscommunication. She never says what she is actually thinking. When Fallopian asked her about the Trystero being made up she thnks, “it has occurred to her. But like the thought that someday she would have to die, Oedipa had been steadfastly refusing to look at the possibility directly, or in any but the accidental lights” but she only responds with “no” (Pyncho 139). I did not enjoy reading this novel as it was a t times frustrating to reread passages multiple times.

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  11. 1.After reading the final chapter, the Trystero seems to be nothing more than a joke put on by Pierce to trick Oedipa. Looking at how much it effected the way Oedipa thought and never really truly convincing her, it is hard to believe that the Trystero is not some sort of conspiracy. Mike Fallopian confronts Oedipa and asks her “’Has it ever occurred to you, Oedipa, that somebody’s putting you on? That this is all a hoax, maybe something Inverarity set up before he died?’ I had occurred to her. But like the thought that someday she would have to die, Oedipa had been steadfastly refusing to look at that possibility directly…” (138). In this passage we are able to see not only someone directly raise the question of conspiracy but we can see that Oedipa has not been completely convinced and has questioned the authenticity of the entire situation but just refuses to believe it. The elaborate steps that were taken must have seemed authentic to Oedipa if it really took a toll on her mind as she struggles to admit maybe it was a hoax.

    2.Dr. Hilarius had to be the most absurd character for sure. In every encounter in the book there was some sort of odd thing going on with him. For example, when Oedipa goes to his clinic, his assistant tells her that “he’s gone crazy…he things someone’s after him…he’s locked himself in the office with that rifle” (108). She then tells Oedipa that terrorists are after him (109). His actions just seemed very absurd and exaggerated in his responses. Not only that, but his name alone is very close to the word hilarious. Which pretty much sums up his actions throughout the book.

    3.Dr. Hilarius had to be the most absurd character for sure. In every encounter in the book there was some sort of odd thing going on with him. For example, when Oedipa goes to his clinic, his assistant tells her that “he’s gone crazy…he things someone’s after him…he’s locked himself in the office with that rifle” (108). She then tells Oedipa that terrorists are after him (109). His actions just seemed very absurd and exaggerated in his responses. Not only that, but his name alone is very close to the word hilarious. Which pretty much sums up his actions throughout the book.

    4. I must admit, this novel was not my favorite. I found it hard to get into and found myself rereading certain passages. It was an interesting story, which is something I can appreciate and partially want to read it again in order to fully appreciate it. However, this is not something I am itching to read again any time soon.

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  12. I firmly believe that the entire scenario was a joke played on Oedpia by the hands of Pierce which would mean that he most definitely did not die. He was wealthy enough to conduct this whole elaborate act with ancient books and forging stamps that he could have easily pulled it off. “Has it ever occurred to you, Oedipa, that somebody’s putting you on? That this is all a hoax, maybe something Inverarity set up before he died?” (138). The conspiracy regarding the entire situation is something Pierce knew Oedpia would never give up on and thus he felt as though her relentlessness would eventually lead her to find the truth…or not?

    “Oedipa nodded. She couldn’t stop watching his eyes. They were a bright black, surrounded by an incredible network of lines, like a laboratory maze for studying intelligence in tears. They seemed to know what she wanted, even if she didn’t.” This quote emphasizes Oedipa’s lack of sanity when describing Driblette’s eyes. She seems to morph reality into some kind of delusion where everything is alive and hysterical. Her mental state of hysteria and delusion may be what allowed her to keep her persistence about the Trystero.

    Oedipa was surrounded by isolation both mentally and physically. Her husband was addicted to drugs so she did not have that support or guidance at home that a husband would typically give. This may have also led to her mental recluse in order to block out all the was wrong in her personal life. “They are stripping from me she said subvocally—feeling like a fluttering curtain in a very high window, moving up to then out over the abyss—they are stripping away, one by one, my men.” Her abandonment issues concerning the men in her life are crippling her into a state of isolation in which she is either unaware of or chooses to ignore. Regardless, she seems desperate for help.

    I appreciate what the author was trying to do to make the plot interesting, however it just could not capture my interest. It was much too confusing and there was too much going on. It was frustrating having to reread the passages and trying to better understand what was going on.

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  13. In the Crying of Lot 49, there is a mystery surrounding what/who is Trystero and it drives Oedipa Maas to figure out the truth. That truth, which seems the most plausible out of the four possibilities, is that it is one elaborate joke made by Pierce to fool Oedipa. It seems to be a joke because it just drives Oedipa crazy to think that it could be the other possibilities that they obviously can’t be true. At one point in the novel Oedipa is told, “that this is all a hoax, maybe something Inverarity set up before he dies?” (138).

    Some elements of characterization that may seem unrealistic and to an extent exaggerated, comes in the form of Dr. Hilarius. When Oedipa goes to visit him again, it is revealed that he was a Nazi doctor who is also on LSD, which makes the whole section to be absurd. Even his name suggests that he might not be the realistic portrayal of someone, which makes it more of an exaggeration because if he is crazy it might be a little to over the top.

    The themes of isolation and miscommunication are developed in the novel through the characterization of Oedipa. Oedipa is on journey to seek this mystery surrounding the Trystero in order to give her closure but instead is left isolated by everyone. She is dead set in finding the truth she abandons the closeness she ever had because she thinks never had it and ultimately never finds it. The theme of miscommunication is evident in the mail delivery wherein letters are received to ensure clear communication but is in fact the opposite because they mean nothing.

    While reading this novel I had quite the uncommon reaction, because I sort of enjoyed it. Yes it is frustrating because we are never given clear answers, but I appreciated that because not everything is supposed to have nice little bow at the end. This coincides with the idea of Oedipa never finding the exact answers to what the Trystero is. It makes the reader form their theories of what actually happened, making it a far more interesting read.

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  14. I think that the most plausible explanation to the Trystero is that it is a joke that Pierce played on Oedipa. Fallopian tells Oedipa “Has it ever occurred to you, Oedipa, that somebody’s putting you on? That this is all a hoax, maybe something Inverarity set up before he died?” (Pynchon 138). It being a hoax seems to be the most logical explanation.

    I thought that it seemed unrealistic when Oedipa is talking to Arnold Snarb and he tells her “The pin I’m wearing means I’m a member of the IA. That’s Inamorati Anonymous. An inamorato is somebody in love. That’s the worst addiction of all” (Pynchon 91). It seems absurd to have an association like that because in reality love isn’t considered as something bad.

    The novel has many themes of isolation. Oedipa leaves her husband to figure out Pierce’s will. She also focuses on figuring out what the Trystero is. She becomes too invested in the Trystero, “Either Trystero did exist, in its own right, or it was being presumed, perhaps fantasied by Oedipa, so hung up on and interpenetrated with the dead man’s estate” (Pynchon 88). She isolates herself from her husband because she is focused on uncovering a mystery. Once she meets up with her husband again, he is no longer the same person he was before she left him.

    The novel was confusing. It was also frustrating because I had to reread the passages to understand what was going on in the story.

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  15. The Trystero must be an elaborate joke.  Of all the discoveries Oedipa makes, she never seems to make sense of it all.  The Trystero is a misleading, convoluting mechanism Pychon dangles over the reader’s head, while in the meantime exercising the possibility that it may be a century old feud between mail handlers?  Pynchon ascribes a cumbersome postulation in his narrative, “[e]ither Trystero did exist, in its own right, or it was being presumed, perhaps fantasied by Oedipa, so hung up on and interpenetrated with the dead man’s estate” (Pynchon 88).  This only serves as a more confusing addition to his set-up of the mystery in his narrative.  It could also involve the cigarette smuggling from Italy.  A large mob-related human remains operation from years past.  In any event, Pynchon leaves us to our own understandings to draw a conclusion.
     
        The characterization that takes place involving characters’ names is near farcical: Mike Fallopian (female reproduction), Manny DiPresso (manic depressive), Yoyodyne (absurd aerospace company name), and their appropriately named CEO Mr. Chiclitz.  The entire affair seems shrouded in silliness nearing the point of disbelief, however Pynchon draws it back to believable right before that moment.  “A young man in a drip-dry suit slid into the seat across from them, introduced himself as Mike Fallopian,  and began proselytizing for an organization known as the Peter Pinguid Society” (Pynchon 34-35).  Even the fictional Jacobean-era play they see, The Courier’s Tragedy, is named after what, perhaps, the great mysterious Trystero might be about: a courier’s tragedy.  Everything considered, Pynchon masterfully crafts together a puzzling assemblage of thought-provoking scenarios and characters.    
       
    Isolation is developed as one of the predominant themes in the novel through use of miscommunication and general confusion.  As the situation surrounding Inverarity’s estate becomes more complex and mysterious, Oedipa finds herself more akin to her thoughts and feelings; untrusting of the chaotic and misplaced opinions of her cohorts.  “It’s the wrong side,” Oedipa states, “The watermark” (Pynchon 77), utilizing her own intelligence and observation to tell Ghengis Cohen of his minor misstep.  She feels, after a while, that she is the only one with the motive of getting to the bottom of The Trystero.  Every other character either becomes enveloped in their own exploits or altogether is simply unhelpful.  The instances in which she is privy to the guidance or help of someone, ineffective communication ensues and she is left to decide by her own devices.  

    I am a major David Foster Wallace fan, and upon exploring his work and style, I am always directed towards Thomas Pynchon.  Critics and novelists, scholars and amateurs alike have all compared the two writers to one another.    The two are similar stylistically: both use enjambment, both are hyper-descript, and both unleash their imaginations, totally.  I found Lot 49 to be particularly entertaining because of the wit of Pynchon.  This permeates throughout via characters’ names, situations, dialogue and theme.  He creates a cumbersome narrative with the inclusions of obscure elements such as the fake Jacobean play and The Trystero, leaving the encoding to be done by the reader.  The absurdity of life is magnified to Pynchon, therefore he crafts his work in the mold of life: chaotic, humorous and confusing.  

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    1. Your response really made me curious about the nature of the novel and Pynchon’s characters. I’ve only read one David Foster Wallace story, but I’d be interested to read more of both his and Pynchon’s work to see how they compare.

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  16. In the final chapter of The Crying Of Lot 49, Trystero is nothing more than a joke due to the actions of Pierce. He set the whole thing up for his ex-girlfriend Oedipa as a prank. However, it still doesn’t make since to me why he would do it, and why he would go to such great lengths for something as simple as a prank. “Has it ever occurred to you Oedipa that somebody’s putting you on? That this is all a hoax, maybe something inverarity set up before he died” (167). That somebody would be Pierce, and he seems like the only character that could pull it off. Furthermore, this reminds me of a conspiracy theory because there isn’t any evidence to back it up. If he did do this as a joke then there would have been proof, however, there isn’t any.

    Dr. Hilarius is the most exaggerated and absurd character in the book because he is just there, serving no purpose. Out of nowhere he states that he is a Nazi doctor and smokes LSD, which, ultimately has no purpose what so ever. Although he is a doctor (someone who helps others deal with their issues) he is actually the crazy one in the novel.

    Oedipa Maas is the main character that feels isolation in this novel. She is completely isolated and alone from everyone at the beginning of the novel and it seems as if, she can hardly get by without any help. “She was overcome all at once by a need to touch him, as if she could not believe in him, or would not remember him, without it.” This shows that not only does Oedipa feel isolated, she is isolated from the essence of reality. She get this urge to touch him, as if that’s the only way she can remember someone.

    To be honest, I still don’t quite understand this novel. I need to read and analysis it several more times before fully comprehending what’s going on. However, I did enjoy Pynchon use of realistic themes, elements, and all the madness that was included into the book. Although, I still don’t understand the novel as a whole, I enjoyed reading this kind of literature for the first time.

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  17. I fear I must mimic most of the rest of my classmates when I say that in my opinion, the explanation of the Trystero that makes the most sense is it being one big farce. It sort of ties in with how the entire novel is composed, running the reader round and round with Oedipa, ultimately leading nowhere. I think Pynchon’s point is that all the absurdity is just that: absurdity. There is no mass conspiracy or master-plan or secret answer to everything. It’s most likely that Oedipa is just being jerked around by Pierce, that somebody is putting her on, “That this is all a hoax, maybe something Inverarity set up before he died” (138). It being anything more would seem to go against what I believe Pynchon is trying to get across.

    It would come as no surprise that scenes featuring the aptly named Dr. Hilarious would come across as absurd as befits the rest of the tone of the novel. The man who was a doctor to Nazis, who “took a chair and smashed the switchboard with it” in front of a patient, who even sometimes locked himself in his office and shot at people (108); the man who had a receptionist so dedicated to him that she’d stay during these shootings when she in case he needed her–this is the man who reigns supreme in the examples of sheer absurdity and perhaps unbelievability in The Crying of Lot 49.

    The theme of isolation in The Crying of Lot 49 begins very early on. From the outset, Oedipa is on her own trying to solve the mystery she has been set upon. She seeks help from many people but never quite finds what she is looking for. It could be argued that the entire novel is simply an attempt for Oedipa to escape these feeling of cold isolation, to find some sort of genuine human connection. Unfortunately, there is no such connection to be found. Oedipa plays strip poker with The Paranoids and even goes so far as to experiment with promiscuity but never quite finds the elusive feeling of togetherness she may be seeking.

    I had a love-hate relationship with this novel. At times I was on totally the same wavelength as Pynchon and the story seemed to hum along, while other times I felt completely bogged down by details and absurdity and just couldn’t make sense of the point of it. Maybe that’s the point, that there is no point. But in my opinion, that’s a rather dull theme to have a novel centered around. I am not sure I could bring myself to read The Crying of Lot 49 again, though I’m sure it could improve with revisits.

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    1. I agree there were ups and downs with reading this novel, I particularly didn’t enjoy the part with the play or the Paranoid’s songs, however they were pertinent to the story. I do plan to read it again when I have more time to look up terms that I don’t know off hand to have a deeper understanding to the story.

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    2. I agree with the isolation that Oedipa is going through and how she experiments with anything and everything to try and overcome it. It may not be promiscuity at all or just free will, it seems as a depression or mental illness that she has had for quite some time and is trying to overcome. I also relate to the relationship you had with the book itself. I wasn’t very attached to it and didn’t grasp it fully, and like you, I would like to revisit it to understand it better.

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  18. I think the most plausible explanation for the Tristero is that it is an underground system used by people to mail letters bypassing the U.S. postal service. Gengis Cohen mentioned that the stamp Oedipa saw was designated “under the title “Tristero Rapid Post, San Francisco, California”” and the W.A.S.T.E. system stands for “We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire” (Pg. 139). I know others have mentioned their belief that the Tristero is all a ploy by Pierce, and even Oedipa questions herself about the carriers she encountered, thinking “that all of them were Pierce Inverarity’s men? Bought? Or loyal, for free, for fun”, but because of how ridiculous the book has been up to this point, I think it is more plausible that the Tristero is in fact a group of conspiracy theorists or anarchists that are attempting to bypass U.S. mail (Pg. 140). We also do not know enough about Pierce’s character, since he is dead, to know whether this is a joke he would play on someone or not, and I think it is more likely that Oedipa is merely experiencing a coincidence.
    The characters were more absurd than Oedipa’s uncovering of the Tristero, in my opinion. When Oedipa goes back to Dr. Hilarius he says, “I worked on experimentally-induced insanity. A catatonic Jew was as good as a dead one”, which was completely out of left field for me (Pg. 112). Then, there is the incident where Mucho admitted to being on LSD, courtesy of Dr. Hilarius, and when Oedipa fears he is addicted he argues you do not take LSD because it is addicting, but “because it’s good” (Pgs. 112, 118). The moment that caught me off guard the most was when Nefastis was attempting to get Oedipa to move a cylinder with her mind. When she frustratingly gave up and he asked her to come to the couch she asks why, and he said, “[To] have sexual intercourse” (Pg. 86). Although Oedipa seems a bizarre character for pursuing and trying to understand the Tristero, every character she encounters in her pursuit is almost unbelievably odd. As I said before, I believe the Tristero is in fact an underground mailing system people use, and not some ploy by Pierce, and I think the “strange than fiction” characters are why. It is difficult for me to believe these characters have been bought by Pierce to fool someone he barely knew at the end of his life.
    As another student mentioned, there is not a sense of human affection or connection in the book. Even Metzger “eloped[s] with a depraved 15-year-old” so by the end of the novel she has no one (Pg. 126). Oedipa seeking out the Tristero is a way for her to forget about the isolation.
    I enjoyed the novel, although it was very bizarre at points, and it was difficult to follow the odd conspiracy plot. Because the book is short, I may end up reading it later on to try and make more sense of it.

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  19. The band of young musicians at Oedipa’s hotel were the first to strike me as humorously ridiculous (although arguably most of the characters in the novel are). Their musical interludes, which provided some themes and even plot points to the narrative, made the setting of the novel all the more of a fantasy-world to me. The narrator even describes their fantastic placement as such when Oedipa comes upon them at the start of the final chapter: “[They were arranged] so composed and motionless that some photographer, hidden from Oedipa, might have been shooting them for an album illustration” (120). In addition to these characters, the crazed dialogue of Dr. Hilarius in the moments before his arrest struck me as particularly long and drawn out, and thus considerably exaggerated (although he was, of course, in manic state).

    In her struggle to attain clarity in the various situations and conspiracies in which she finds herself involved, Oedipa progressively becomes more and more detached from the truth, or at least the reality she had initially known. The reader can determine this from the point at which she first becomes interested in the Trystero, but her isolation is especially apparent at specifc points in the novel, such as when she visits Cal Berkeley; “She moved through [the university] wanting to feel relevant but knowing how much of a search among alternate universes it would take” (83).

    Overall, I enjoyed the novel’s humor, especially the absurdity of the characters and their names and dialogue. Despite the trailing and often confusing nature of the narrative, I was able to relate to Oedipa, both in my intrigue and frustration with the mystery of the Trystero. Oftentimes I thought that Oedipa had ended up in different places with no actual acknowledgement of her movement, as if she were in a dream. Because of this, certain characters, like Fallopian and Nefastis, seemed particularly elusive and hard to judge, which eventually led to some confusion with the plot overall.

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    1. Because I forgot to include my answer to the first question, I’m adding it here:

      Oedipa finds four possible explanations of the Trystero, which include an actual group of people using an underground carrier service to communicate, hallucinations, (brought on by LSD or some other cause) an elaborate plot against her by Pierce Inverarity, or simply fantasy and thus, madness. As much as I want the story to have an actual Trystero, and not simply a delusion of the protagonist that was only in her head the entire time, it rings true that Oedipa might have been hallucinating. Even Mucho cannot recall when he started to self-medicate with Hilarius’s help, as she discovers when she sadly considers his changed state; “she could not quite get it into her head that the day she’d left him for San Narciso was the day she’d seen Mucho for the last time” (118). Thus, her own drugging (perhaps involuntary) does not seem impossible.

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    2. I agree that some of the male characters were very elusive and difficult to judge. I feel that was also a way for Pychon to elaborate to the reader Oedipa’s difficulty in understanding them.

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  20. 1. The four possibilities of the Tristero, as outlined in the final chapter are: a) The Tristero is an aspect of an elaborate plot/joke that Oedipa’s ex-lover Pierce is playing on her, b) Oedipa is delusional and has hallucinated the entire concept, c) The Tristero is real, and Oedipa has stumbled upon a deep network or d) some combination of the previous three. The most likely of possibilities is that it is a combination of Oedipa’s mental delusions as well as a real underground network. The details of the Tristero are far too intricate to be completely written off as solely delusional, however, it is very possible that Oedipa has discovered an underground society that has a secret mail system and has implied the nefariousness to them.
    2. The story itself seems unrealistic, exaggerated and frankly absurd. The story like is very detailed however, and Pychon has done an exquisite job representing the absurdity of mental decline. The most absurd situation presented in the novel has to be the situation with Dr. Hillarious at his office, barricading himself in his office with a rifle because the Turks are coming for him. However, in the situation’s absurdity, it also seems relativity normal, an ex-Nazi doctor, experimenting in the United States with LSD has a mental breakdown and full blown paranoia that someone is after him. It is quite representative of the McCarthy era of communist identification that had just occurred and ceased when Pychon published this work. The entire country had their own paranoias.
    3. The themes of isolation and miscommunication are eloquently represented primarily via the main character Oedipa, who is constantly trying to read further into situations she shouldn’t and seems to be naive about situations she should be analytic about. The most prevalent of this comes from her trip to Berkeley to see John Nefastis, she is quite bothered by his expectation of sexual intercourse which proves the point that she is naive about many situations she shouldn’t be.
    4. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, I greatly appreciated Pychon’s expression of the mental state of America (delusional and paranoid) at the time of its conception. My only frustration is the ending, which I suspect was Pychon’s direct intention for the reader. We have followed this main character on such and elaborate journey, to see it end in such a ways is frustrating.

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    1. I like what you said about the possibility of the Trystero being a real society coupled with Oedipa’s mental decline. And I hadn’t even realized that Dr. Hilarius’s name was a play on “hilarious” until I read your response–that seems so obvious now!

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    2. I am glad others felt the Tristero could be an actual mailing system and not a ploy by Pierce to waste Oedipa’s time (pun intended). Along with The Courier’s Tragedy and Randolph Driblette’s suicide, I felt that in the context of this world the details were too complex for it to be a ruse for someone’s mistress, and it was more of a coincidence that Oedipa stumbled across the Tristero and the underground mailing system. I did not think to look at this in a historical context as you did, in reference to the McCarthy error and paranoia. This illuminates the book for me much more because I did not quite understand the purpose of these ridiculous characters and Oedipa’s worrisome behavior. Another book which points out mass paranoia is “Who Goes There?”, a book by John W. Campbell which inspired a movie titled The Thing from 1980. It is interesting how paranoia can be used by authors and directors to make satirical, funny stories, or even amplify the feelings of horror for audiences.

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  21. 1) It may be a little redundant to say that the Trystero seems to be more of a joke rather than an actual physical object. At first, I was under the impression that it had to do with a mail carrying service as mail and letters were referenced through the book, but toward the end of the novel, we are aware of otherwise. I think it sounded as a bit of a conspiracy theory with a quote that seems as it has been pulled from the Illuminati handbook—“We await silent Trystero’s empire.” The notion of the Trystero was nothing but a joke played on Oedipa by her ex to pull her leg one last time. It was even stated directly to Oedipa that it all may be a hoax—”…That this is all a hoax, maybe something Inverarity set up before he died?” (Pynchon). I believe this is a realization moment for Oedipa and where it all starts becoming a little clearer.
    2) One character that seemed to be a little exaggerated was that of Dr. Hilarius. His character was interesting to me, but his back story, and how he was supposed to be a Nazi doctor, completely took me by surprise. His character seemed a little wild. His name alone is something that gives the reader the idea that something may not be all right with him. As a doctor, he was supposed to be helping people, yet he turned out to be something that people should be afraid of and get away from. As Oedipa was meeting with him trying to find a solution to her own issues, he blew up—““He’s gone crazy. I tried to call the police, but he took a chair and smashed the switchboard with it”. This is an instance where we begin to see the insane characterization of Dr. Hilarius and begin to think that it may be a little exaggerated.
    3) We understand from the start the Oedipa is fairly isolated and alone. She seems to always be trying to get more out situations and trying to find a different meaning for why something is happening, but it is clearly her mind playing tricks on her. She overthinks to the point where she is driven to only think about a certain thing and put all her focus and energy toward that. The book doesn’t have much emotion to it and is written in a very “straightforward” manner so it leaves Oedipa to be connected more to her overwhelming thoughts rather than what is actually happening. She thought of herself like a Rapunzel in her tower, which is one of the most commonly known allusions for isolation and loneliness.
    4) I was not able to read the novel with as much intrigue as I intended to. I am currently reading three novels for 3 different English courses and was not entirely focused on The Crying of Lot 49, as I am sure it needs full focus. I intend on rereading this after this semester, as I will be graduating this spring and hopefully I will grasp it more firmly. The first time reading it felt very bland, but that also may be because I was a bid disconnected to the plot. I did appreciate the story, but I feel as if I would appreciate the plot a lot more if I take another reading.

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