First Sentence of The Crying of Lot 49

Paraphrase: Upon her return from a Tupperware party with disappointing fondue with too much kirsch, Mrs. Oedipa Maas heard that Pierce Inverarity, an ex-boyfriend who had once been a Real Estate mogul in California, had designated her as the executor of his large will.

Oedipa Maas’ name, introduced nearly immediately in the first sentence of The Crying of Lot 49, represents both the skewed morality that will define the actions of the characters in a post-modern piece and the cause for this.  Her first name, obviously, is clearly derived from that of the Greek hero Oedipus.  Being known for his unintentional fulfillment of a prophecy that determined that he would kill his father and marry his mother, Oedipus represents the unconscious actions that society can force a person to complete against their will.  Oedipa’s last name, Maas, serves to provide the context to this in a modern society by referencing the consumerism and constant push for more everything that is deeply instilled in the minds of most citizens.  Just as Jack Gladney of White Noise believes that all paths lead to a fear of and the unavoidable truth of death, it seems that Oedipa, too, represents a similar philosophy in which negative or immoral actions are an inherent accompaniment to this journey.  On one hand, the tone that Pynchon uses to describe Oedipa and her actions here is highly informative in that it constantly digresses to address connected memories and ideas, such as the brief anecdote about Pierce Inverarity’s spare time.  On the other hand, it attempts to use a very personal, stream-of-thought style, for example through the correction of executor to executrix.  In combination, it is clear that the tone of the book will likely follow this system, resembling an unrehearsed, albeit excellently worded, monologue.  In terms of word choice, it is further clear that Pynchon aims to achieve the former stylistic element in part by being as specific with certain words as possible.  The first example of this has already been mentioned, being the specification of executrix as opposed to executor to describe Oedipa’s new job title.  However, the further description of Pierce’s assets as “numerous and tangled” serves to create a very clear idea of the state of these assets, both physically and perhaps philosophically from the perspective of the outsider.  Though this language does serve to make the writing very direct, it is clear that virtually everything being referenced has distinct connotation and philosophical meaning, creating a very clear image of the society which Pynchon aims to analyze.

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