The Crying of Lot 49
How is The Crying of Lot 49 a mystery novel?
What role do letters play in this novel?
How does the novel treat the idea of chaos in culture?
How does Oedipa change over the course of the novel? How does her social situation change?
Compare the songs of The Paranoids to the songs sung in Yoyodyne or the song of Baby Igor. What are the similarities? What are the key differences? Why are there so many songs and lines of verse in this novel?
Discuss the "religious instant" experienced by Oedipa early in chapter two. How does Pynchon create this instant? What are its characteristics? How does Oedipa's train of thought move? How does the (failed) communication in this instant relate to the rest of the novel?
The Crying of Lot 49 has a huge number of characters for a short novel. Analyze some of the minor characters--Metzger, Mucho, Hilarius, Fallopian, etc.--and comment on how they relate to Oedipa and the larger themes of the novel.
The novel deals extensively with history and the messages of history. What can the reader gain from understanding the history of the Tristero? Why is it included in the novel? How does it relate to the novel's themes of chaos and communication?
Analyze some of the systems of order in this novel and show how they relate to one another. For instance, you may discuss the printed circuit envisioned by Oedipa when she first sees San Narciso, or you might discuss Maxwell's Demon. Other possibilities include Mucho's job as a DJ, bringing a type of order to random, individual songs by different bands; and the U.S. Postal System, which has a highly ordered, organized monopoly. How are these systems thematically linked to other parts of the novel?
This novel has a particularly ambiguous ending. What are we to make of Pynchon's refusal to solve the mystery? What are we to make of the possibility that this is all a joke?
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