Let down your hair Mrs. Maas: interpreting Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49
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My paper examines the idea that in the novel The Crying of Lot 49, the obscure plot is mostly interpreted as the post modern adoption of a world famous fairytale Rapunzel. In The Crying of Lot 49, there is an odd sense of detachment which is not so much from reality, but it is certainly the case too, as from itself. In my view this detachment from itself is mainly caused by an ontological contingency, an absence of truth. But, it is also owing to a layered thematic structure, where the different layers are presented not as sediments but rather as a palimpsest rendering each layer perspicuously transparent but lacking in cohesion. Reading Pynchon’s novel is a peculiar experience as the story unfolds, the reader is made increasingly word-conscious as each word becomes, figuratively, more conscious of both its etymological roots and its semantic field, so that eventually each word potentially suggests a whole knotty cluster of meanings .This tends to perplex the reader, mainly because every thematic is overly emphasized; e.g. almost all the names are linked to Freudian psychology, they have psycho sexual connotations and connotations of paranoia. All thematics pertaining to religion are somehow related to death. They are juxtapositions of Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and ancient Egyptian theology and mythology picked randomly and served as a bowl of magic soup. A well-known fairy tale frames the story, whereas the story itself is set up as a detective story with its protagonist Oedipa Maas in the role of the classic private-eye who struggles to discern reality from appearance in a world where every clue is prepared and laid out by her former, dead lover. All she has to do as executor of his will is follow the dead man’s instructions whatever they are and wherever they take her. The names, religious instants, fairy-tale and detective story of this novel are foregrounded thematics that have all been transformed into free flowing states disengaged from their usual marks of identification. They have become simulacra. In my view, the constant conflict between the dichotomy of reality and appearance and its eventual breakdown is a strong theme in this story. The plot of Pynchon’s story is presented in the form of a detective story which is epistemological. The protagonist sets out on a quest to unravel what seems to be an extensive conspiracy revolving around an underground postal service system. My thesis proposes that this epistemological quest conceals an obscure plot, which permeates and supports the entire story. This obscure plot is the well- known fairy-tale Rapunzel, but presented in a postmodern variation, which, contrary to more modern representations, seeks to up-hold the traditional formula for fairy-tales: an innocent story on top and underneath deep, dark murky waters of meaning that may or may not be penetrated.