The Crying of Lot 49

by: Thomas Pynchon

Chapter 2

This certainly ties in to the events in the motel with Metzger. The game of Strip Botticelli is particularly illustrative of the plot about to unfold. In the game, the multi-layered Oedipa strips plenty of her clothes off, but she never really approaches any sort of nudity thanks to all her bundles of clothing. On one level, this may be an insight into Oedipa's personality; perhaps Pynchon is trying to assert that she is a multi-layered character who cannot be fully exposed under any circumstances. Indeed, simple, truthful exposure is not possible in this game. However, the game may be a larger allegory for the broader scheme of the detective story about to begin. When Oedipa goes about trying to solve the mystery of the Tristero, she will quickly find that no matter how many insights she discovers or twists she uncovers, she will never fully expose the conspiracy. There are always more layers to the complex plot, and Oedipa will find that each time she strips away a mysterious layer, it only opens up more possibilities and more sub-mysteries to be solved. Strip Botticelli is a means of indicating that the Tristero mystery will never lie open, naked and exposed, because there are always deeper layers to be uncovered.

Finally, notice the way in which Pynchon creates images. The sex scene at the end of the chapter is full of Freudian sexual imagery, all of which is tied in with the events on the margins of the sexual act. For instance, when Oedipa and Metzger begin having sex, Pynchon mentions that the people outside in the hallway are "plugging in" their guitars into amps. The line, "The father seemed to be up before a court-martial, now" is supposed to refer to a character in the film on TV, but its placement immediately after Metzger takes his pants off can only be interpreted as a not-too-subtle means of telling us that he has an erection. The affair between Metzger and Oedipa emerges out of simple desire. In layering the scene with Freudian images through the comedic venue of the Paranoids--Freud being a man deeply engaged in the effort, among other things, to clearly explain sexual desires--Pynchon engages in and mocks the effort to impose interpretation on that which cannot entirely be interpreted.