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The Crying of Lot 49

Thomas Pynchon

Chapter 3

Summary Chapter 3


Oedipa, having just committed marital infidelity with Metzger, reflects on her perception of herself as a Rapunzel figure. She thinks that the system she will soon come to discover and explore fully will be the thing that ends her captivity in the tower. Starting with his stamp collection, Oedipa begins going through all of Pierce's possessions in an attempt to order his chaotic affairs. She continues her affair with Metzger, although she does receive vapid and meaningless mail from Mucho updating her about what is going on in Kinneret (basically, nothing).

One night, Oedipa and Metzger go to a bar called The Scope, where they meet Mike Fallopian. Mike is a member of the Peter Pinguid Society, an extreme right-wing group that takes its name from the first U.S.-Russia military encounter in history. The ardently pro-American organization is to the right even of the John Birch Society. The three of them chat about the group until Oedipa leaves to go to the bathroom. In a stall, she sees a symbol that she cannot quite distinguish, comprised of a line segment running tangent to a circle, with an isosceles triangle at one end and a small trapezoid attached to the base of the triangle. Although Oedipa does not realize it at first, it is supposed to depict a muted post-horn. Under the picture is written the name "Kirby" and the acronym WASTE, although Oedipa does not know what it represents.

Returning to the table, she discusses the mail service with Mike. He informs her that the Peter Pinguid Society opposes the U.S. mail monopoly and uses its own private system. Fallopian is, in fact, writing a book on the history of the U.S. Postal Service from the time of the Civil War, which saw enormous postal reform.

A few days later, Oedipa and Metzger take a trip out to Fangoso Lagoons to find Lake Inverarity, one of Pierce's major land-holdings. The Paranoids accompany them with their girlfriends and instruments. They meet Manny di Presso, a minor character who is suing Inverarity's estate on behalf of one of his clients. While they speak to di Presso, two goons come running toward them. Di Presso says they are his clients trying to borrow money, and the group quickly gets on a boat to escape. Di Presso explains that his client, Tony Jaguar, stole bones from a place called Beaconsfield and gave them to Inverarity to make a special charcoal. Inverarity, says Jaguar, never paid for the bones--hence, the lawsuit. Jaguar got the bones from Lago di Pieta in Italy, the site of a horrible massacre in World War II, after which the Italians dumped the dead American corpses into the lake. Jaguar recovered the bodies and sent them to Inverarity.

One of the Paranoids comments that di Presso's story is much like the plot of Richard Wharfinger's The Courier's Tragedy, a Jacobean revenge drama. Intrigued, Oedipa and Metzger go later to see a production of the play, directed by Randolph Driblette. The play itself is a complicated tale of mixed up communication, jealousy, and murder. The most important part of the play comes at the end of the fourth act, when one character says the line, "No hallowed skein of stars can ward, I trow, / Who's once been set his tryst with Trystero." The mention of Trystero freezes Oedipa; it seems significant, but she does not know why yet (Pynchon hints that it will mean much more to her later on).

After the show, Oedipa goes backstage to speak with Driblette about the bones while Metzger waits for her in the car. She gets a script from Driblette, although the two argue over drama and words; Driblette believes that Oedipa reads too much into things. Driblette maintains that he is producing only a simple revenge play. Oedipa decides to call him later to discuss the play more, and, as she leaves, she realizes that she had meant to discuss the bones, but she had ended up discussing the Trystero.

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