The Crying of Lot 49

by: Thomas Pynchon

Chapter 1

It is very important, then, to realize that the problems faced by Oedipa in this novel are really the same as those faced by all readers of the novel itself. Just like any one of the millions of things in this novel that seem to hold a particular message for Oedipa that remains just beyond her reach, this book itself is a means of communication that will prove ultimately baffling to the reader. Every reader of this novel is subject to the same problems as Oedipa; thus, we can see her as a type of "everyman" character who, just like the reader, tries futilely to piece together fragments of a multi-faceted society.

One of this novel's central interests is language itself and the topic of naming (for the relationship between names and language in the novel, please see the special Naming section). The interest in language accounts for the many puns in the novel, one of which is the idea of a "lot." Oedipa's long reflection on her husband's former job in a used-car lot reminds us of the title and may even lead the reader to think that the title will in some way relate to this car lot. However, the car lot, while it symbolizes one of the central problems in Mucho's life (the problem of dealing with the past while believing in the present), has little to do with the broader themes of the book or the title. Thus, Pynchon shows us a way in which language itself, in the form of puns, can be used as a means of providing false clues related to the novel's central concerns.

Another one of these false clues relates to the title of Mucho's radio station, KCUF. It seems plausible, because most West Coast radio stations begin with the letter K. But read backward, the radio station spells the word fuck. One might wonder why Pynchon placed this here, and there is not necessarily a correct answer. Language games such as these might be designed to alert the reader to both the profusion of profanity in society and perhaps the prevalence of sexual imagery and meaning in society, but it might also be Pynchon's game with himself. Or it might be both.