The Second Half of’ The Crying of Lot 49′

In the second half of the book, Oedipa really takes this mail conspiracy to a new extreme. At first, she thinks she has a lead with a group of people bar hopping, but then discovers that they have nothing to do with W.A.S.T.E., or at least not really. After she discovers this, she wanders around the city, seeing the muted horn everywhere, and discovering all sorts of different underground groups that use the sing for their group. then she happens to wander across an old man with the tattoo of the horn on his hand, and he gives her a letter to take to the make-shift underground mail box under the freeway. She does this, and then follows the mailman before randomly being intercepted by a deaf-mute convention’s dance. She goes and finds a friend of hers that has found out all sorts of interesting things about the history of the group, but then she starts having her doubts about the whole situation. She then starts to think that maybe this is all in her head, so she goes to her shrink, who is in the process of going postal because he thinks that people are after him. After that episode, she realizes that all the men in her life are leaving her, and that she is probably just losing her mind. towards the very end, her friend lets her know that the stamp collection has gone to auction, and that he has heard about a very interested buyer that may be someone from W.A.S.T.E. that just wants to cover up any evidence of the organization that may get in to the wrong hands. She goes to the auction to confront him, and the book ends.

This entire book was… confusing, to put it mildly. So many backwards ideas and concepts going on, lots of different ideas and plots and problems intertwined through out the story. And at the very end, the main plot, the base conspiracy that the entire book is basically based on, is left with a cliff hanger. Dun dun dun….

I beleive the author did this in an ironic move to poke fun at all the cliff hangers that classic literature has. But, he took it to the next level and made it a real cliff hanger that will never be solved by ending the book right before what could have been a very interesting, possibly satisfying climax to this otherwise wildly mixed up story.

Why do you think he did this? Is there an end to this story? Would there have ever been an end to this story even if the author had written it into the story? Or is that the point, that there is no end? Is the lack of end the end as it was meant to be? Or does the author just have a sick sense of humor?

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4 Responses to The Second Half of’ The Crying of Lot 49′

  1. emcd23 says:

    I felt that the ending was very fitting for the story, and I’m not sure how Pynthon could have written an ‘ending’ that wouldn’t have undermined the impact of the rest of the book. As I understand it, we can look at the story as asking whether true communication is possible, whether the ‘symbols’ and ‘clues’ the world presents us with mean anything, and whether we really ought to care that they do or don’t. If we accept this interpretation, the ending serves as an underscore on those questions. The reader is left wondering whether the trail leads anywhere, and why Oedipa is still sticking around to find out. After all, what will it change for her if this conspiracy does or does not exist? What is it about people that makes us insist on conclusive, logical endings — what about life makes us think that these endings are things that exist or that we deserve? Again, since I felt that such questions were the backbone of this book in the first place, I’m glad they weren’t thrown out the window by a different ending.

  2. elliejo44 says:

    After our discussion in class today, especially the possible significance of the number 49, I think the ending hints that Oedipa is on the verge of a revelation. From my extensive knowledge of Christian traditions (aka reading the Pentacost Wikipedia page), Pentacost is celebrated 50 days after Easter and commemorates the descent of the holy spirit on the disciples. So, the number 49 would signify that Oedipa is on the verge of a revelation. The description of Passerine as a priest or a “descending angel” further emphasize that a revelation is close at hand. Despite all these hints, however, the story ends, leaving the reader with no real conclusion.

    I think that there is a point in this- Pynchon pokes fun at the desire of the reader to find a hidden meaning in words and symbols by planting symbols that do little to reveal the truth about Trystero or illuminate the motivations of characters. Just as Oedipa is constantly finding dead ends in her quest to uncover the secret postal service, the reader finds dead ends in their struggle to find meanings in “The Crying of Lot 49.” I agree with emcd23 that we look for and feel that we deserve neat, concrete endings, when this isn’t how the world works… we want order, and strive to attain it by building more efficient engines, wanting clear narratives, etc., but in a universe where entropy is always increasing (at least in the thermodynamic sense) this often impossible.

  3. jnikol12 says:

    I think that a great part of this novel’s intended meaning centers around the fact that it is so “wildly mixed up”. I don’t believe that a neat ending would make the story any more interesting or satisfying. Ellie made a really great observation about the increasing chaos that rules thermodynamics. The book, to me, is so fascinating because it mimics this scientific principle. I think Oedipa might just be the embodiment of a closed thermodynamic system. She’s closed off and therefore unable to accept any new information (in the form of human communication). The energy in her system is increasing in entropy because it is isolated/”confined”. The more chaotic she becomes on in the inside, the more difficult it is for her to accept and internalize external messages. If my fifteen minutes of internet research have informed me correctly, the free, or “useful”, energy available inside a closed system decreases as the entropy (and, as a result, heat) inside of it increases. Then there is this whole theory about “heat death” where the maximum state of entropy is realized and no more useful energy can be used. Or something. On page 14, words being spoken to Oedpia are described as a “whirlwind” that is “too slow for her heated skin even to feel the centrifugal coolness of”. Oedipa, kind of like Nefastis’ machine, is an isolated system incapable of accepting any outside energy/information. Her entropy level is not the same as that of the outside world’s.

  4. gluck987 says:

    I think the author definitely has a sick sense of humor, but I don’t think that’s why the book ends inconclusively. The entire book could be read as a kind of rallying cry against cause and effect or cohesion. I feel as though Pynchon is noting a major disconnect between “Realism,” as commonly defined by literary critics, and reality. Although novelists have long sought to examine life as accurately as possible, they’ve traditionally done so through a very standardized and, strangely, stylized craft. The “Great American Novel,” that archetype of how to compose a story, relies heavily on narrative arc, on beginnings and ends, on conflict and resolution, on changing characters. But Pynchon seems to realize that we’ve adapted our perspective on life through that hyperbolic portrait of existence. In novels and in life, we try to force “closure” and “symmetry” upon our surroundings. By deconstructing that desire, Pynchon allows his audience to look at sequences of events and apparent patterns in a more “realistic” way- if we stop expecting the episodes of a story to coalesce into an easily digested whole, then we are freer to enjoy and analyze them as they are. The same could be said about life.

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