Marxism: The Crying of Lot 49

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This essay is a to tell how Marxism is relevant in The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon.

Submitted: December 11, 2017

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Submitted: December 11, 2017



The Marxist theory is grounded in its materials and history of human societies. These theories are about the historical changes and the conflicts that come about in society while appearing indirectly in literature or literary form itself. "Marxists believe that individuals are 'bearers' of positions in the social system and not free agents" (Selden, Widdowson, Brooker. 95). Marxism in Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 insists that Oedipa's journey is a verifiable one in which she searches for an authentic and genuine life.

In the beginning of The Crying of Lot 49, the reader manages to experience a state of precariousness similar to the protagonist, the scattered ironic puns, and pop-culture references make the message of the text difficult to understand.  Connections can be formed and meanings ascribed out of the allusions and insinuation implanted in the author’s perception, which makes The Crying of Lot 49 a variation on Oedipa’s incidental tower.  It is opposed that certain principles accompany the form of this novel, however, these conventions are the equivalent of Oedipa’s “anonymous and malignant [magic] visited on her from outside and for no reason at all” (Pynchon 12).

 "If Oedipa's tower is "only incidental," however, it is also ubiquitous, that is, she discoveries it far and wide. It is a human condition, the human condition as incidental, as an unnecessary subservience remainder or "W.A.S.T.E," that shadowlike communication system that Oedipa comes to come across as a kind of fate or fortune in the novel. Pynchon's metaphors here imply that movement or paratactic placement that symbolizes the feeling of subjection to a vital illogical area. Oedipa is an incident person, a projection, a kind of hologram whose point of origin, that which "keeps her where she is," proposes a frightening involvement between "anonymous" gravitational force and "malignant" social power, between unavoidable physical law and structures vitiating (to borrow a Marxian locution) the social field, in which self-recognition is probable. Oedipa's caging in the tower cannot be comprehended apart from this reified separation from a labor that quite literally comes to figure the alien object of unreasonable speculation, and which the paranoid subject can only consummate in a repeated fabrication of that exterior realm which "keeps her" in her place.

Pynchon lets the threads dandle in this slanted mockery of such a suburban sprawl that consists of the conspiracy propositions. Oedipa Maas turns cold on the path of a shadowy organization called the Tristero that competes for the postal trade and uses a muted trumpet as its ideogram. Then, Oedipa stumbles into some memorable, somewhat unreasonable encounters she witnesses the breakdown of her psychiatrist and encounters The Paranoids who write songs about frugging. The more Oedipa learns about the Tristero the less she knows.

Communication is also examined in the world of Marxist theory not as an independent social field, but as an element in the social structure. However, it is argued that the initial Marxist idea was altered from the forms of communication as relations of production to communication as part of the superstructure and that this perception has prevailed in the Marxist theory for a period of time. Mediation in the Marxist theory refers to the mending of two opposing forces within a given society by a mediating object.

“…You could waste your life that way and never touch the truth. Wharfinger supplied words and a yarn. I gave them life. That’s it.” [Driblette] fell silent. The shower splashed. “Driblette?” Oedipa called, after a while. His face appeared briefly. “We could do that.” He wasn’t smiling. His eyes waited, at the centres of their webs. “I’ll call,” said Oedipa. (80). Also, near the end of the novel Oedpia calls the Inamorato Anonymous member: “Arnold,” he said. There was a long stretch of bar noise. “It’s over,” she said, “They’ve saturated me. From here on I’ll only close them out. You’re free. Released. You can tell me.”, “It’s too late,” he said. “For me?” she could ask what he meant, he’d hung up. (177), both of these conversations involve Oedipa seeking more knowledge in order to make sense of these symbols, names, and words introduces to her in a somewhat irrelevant manner. The conversations reflect the same imprecise relativeness: they’re the spoken portions of the novel, yet they appear unserviceable to the plot as a whole.

In this novel, there is an element of disinterest from realism and fact. This expanse of realism and characters appears to be caused the absence of communication. Oedipa endlessly acts upon compulsion and communicates little with those around her. When she begins her affair with Metzger there is no communication amongst them about their emotional or mental state. Oedipa appears to start this affair out of dullness with her marriage, yet she never seems to communicate with her husband.  It’s challenging to comprehend Oedipa’s motivations, intentions, and emotional state at this point because the reader is only visible to her actions.  She sometimes tends to define her emotional state to us, yet they are, quite often, unpredictable and undeveloped.As the novel develops, she investigates deeper and deeper into this conspiracy while she becomes more and more distant from realism and those around her.

Oedipa's mission is seeking an alternative way to communicate and there seem to be symbols of it in all places. She had already acknowledged from the “The Courier's Tragedy” that there used to be two postal services, the regular Thurn and Taxis and that of Trystero's, whose representation stands as a muted post-horn. This reference to quietness as dependable communication had already been existing in some parts in "Entropy." The story reminiscences a performance of instruments without sound, and the novel deals with quietness in the form of stamps. The dream has to do with the structure and its disregard of old-fashioned rhythm. Towards the ending, we discover that these stamps are what made Lot 49.  Quieted communication is expected in the world of yearning, which tends to parallel completely to the very delicate; "a hieroglyphic sense of concealed meaning, of an intent to communicate" (24). At the peak of the narrative, it turns out to be what Trystero and his army of knights are looking for.

Communication is lost amongst Pynchon's characters, almost all of whom are infatuated by the supposed cryptography in these things, in the music and dialect of, or simply in the "vast sprawl of houses" that Oedipa comprehends outside Los Angeles, jogging her memory of the printed circuit of a transistor radio, with its "intent to communicate. Lot 49 or Pynchon himself tends to play with the concept of communication in the present-day and in history through the vital imagery of the postal horn and stamps. The mail system represented the fastest means of long-distance communication until the application of the telegraph, and the birth of the improved age.

The Crying of Lot 49 is mostly a reflection on the failure or failed attempts in the field of communication, both in the present and between generations. In these circumstances, it is difficult to have an idea of what really happened in history, or to even portray fact from fiction in these historical texts. The vital mystery in Lot 49 is the symbol of the muted horn, which appears to be linked to an underground system, known as “W.A.S.T.E.”, and is also affiliated with a strange historical organization known as The Trystero. The muted horn appears on the postage stamp of this “W.A.S.T.E.” system, but also on old postage stamps, it may be forged. Oedipa also discovers that the unmuted horn symbol appeared on the stamps of the old Thurn and Taxis courier service, the official mail service of the Holy Roman Empire, until its downfall or collapse.

© Copyright 2019 R.S.M. All rights reserved.

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