• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Paranoia and the Search for Meaning in the Crying of Lot 49

Extracts from this document...


Paranoia and the Search for Meaning in The Crying of Lot 49 Mark Sinclair Contemporary Fiction Honors A December 19, 2008 Paranoia, at its most basic state, is classified as a mental disorder characterized by delusions backed by apparent logic. However, in another context, it is also described as a tendency to look for hidden meaning, even when no meaning is intended. As John Johnston illustrates it, paranoia can be considered "less as a mental aberration than as a specific 'regime of signs'...in which the semiotic or signifying potential is dominant" (O'Donnell 47). This classification suits Thomas Pynchon's heroine, Oedipa Maas, from The Crying of Lot 49. Enveloped by delusional over-thinking, a conspiratorial postal system, and a penchant for following clues, Oedipa quickly finds herself flung headfirst into a situation filled with a complex blend of fact and fiction. She continually searches for more information, a revelation, or a "cry that might abolish the night" (Pynchon 95). Oedipa's sole purpose is, like the fictional Maxwell's Demon, to sort useful facts from useless ones. However, neither she nor the reader will ever arrive at a conclusive end. Therefore, Pynchon uses the protagonist Oedipa Maas to communicate the concept of paranoia and the search for meaning in everyday life by demonstrating the importance of individual interpretation over the real answer. ...read more.


Paranoia sets in, and the two (Oedipa and the reader) are forced to make a choice: to call it madness, or to follow it blindly. Oedipa's paranoia stems from the desire to solve the mystery, and to reach a definable endpoint. She wants to find the single element that will connect everything in order to create meaning. "Paranoia is a mode of perception that notes the connectedness between things in a hyperbolic metonymizing of reality" (O'Donnell 182). Paranoids, like Oedipa, and indeed the reader, are looking for an easy way out, but Pynchon is reluctant to provide an escape. He throws out signs, now devoid of meaning, but at the same time these signs "deflect us toward another sign" (Johnston 50). Oedipa, in her delusional state near the end of the book, ends up seeing the muted post horn everywhere she goes, and believes that the conspiracy is all around her. The truly paranoid can find a hidden meaning for everything, and if he/she looks hard enough, he/she will find an answer. Pynchon allows this paranoid search for meaning to take place in order to demonstrate a much larger concept. The interpretation and the understanding of the individual is much more important than the final conclusion because it permits a coexistence of multiple answers, all seemingly valid. ...read more.


(Lyotard 81) Oedipa finds that the form is familiar and identifiable, and because of this, she follows the clues wherever they lead. In some cases, she makes up her own signs to follow, as is a common tendency in the paranoid mentality, and works on an explanation. She expects to see a resolution, and have all of her questions answered. However, Pynchon stops just short, and both Oedipa and the reader are "awaiting" the conclusion. People suffering from paranoia experience events differently than normal people. They find hidden meanings everywhere they look, and they have a propensity to overanalyze signs and symbols. This might be because they desire a conclusion or answer so strongly that they look for any connection to justify these paranoid actions. They are constantly flooded with signs devoid of relevance and meaning, and yet they handle this "information overload" like scientists. Oedipa Maas and the reader quickly become Maxwell's Demon in the search for meaning, sorting unsuccessfully to separate fact from fiction. Pynchon uses this metaphor so as to make a statement about the quest to find meaning. Although the end will never be attainable, the answer will always lie within the mind of the interpreter. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Classics section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Classics essays

  1. Communication and Meaning in the Crying of Lot 49

    "She could carry the sadness of the moment with her that way forever, see the world refracted through those tears, those specific tears" (11). Oedipa feels such a strong connection to the women trapped in their tower, and she cries until she fills up her glasses with tears.

  2. 'Antigone' by Jean Anouilh.

    Eventually, Creon resorts to the tactic of bursting Antigone's romanticised bubble about her brother telling her of the crimes Polynices' committed during his life and killed his own brother. Creon has enabled some light to be shone on the truth about her brother, and soon Antigone starts agreeing with Creon.

  1. Who made the greatest contribution to the Athenian Constitution?

    worth over �800 million, became a knight and then received a Lordship. This sort of story is an example of "rags to riches" and how anyone can be successful if they have what it takes.

  2. Multiple choice questions from The Crucible.

    Midieval B. Elizabethan C. Renaissance D. Greek E. Neoclassical 11. The House Unamerican Activities Committee looked for ____________. A. witches B. tax evaders C. terrorists D. lotto winners E. Communists 12 All of the following are major themes from The Crucible except_________. A. Intolerance B. Community C. Hysteria D.

  1. Was Britain Worth The Romans Invading?

    Britain had more men in its garrisons than in any other province in the Roman Empire. The garrisons contained approximately 20,000 men. It has been approximated that the annual wages of the Roman army in Britain exceeded 13 million denarii.

  2. How Shakespeare creates dramatic events in Romeo and Juliet

    'For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.' This is effective as the audience are made to feel the dramatic tension. This is because, before Capulet's ball, the audience were attentive at the fact that Romeo loved Rosaline. The audience believed that Romeo was in love with Rosaline as

  1. Classics - Notes on Acharnians

    o An example of Aristophanes' views shown through the characters, in this case the hero of the play. * Dikaiopolis idealizes the country and the city is criticized. o This is a way of showing that war is making Athens miss out on the 'good' life.

  2. The Roman Army: Why were the Romans able to conquer and maintain such a ...

    Weaponry The Roman legionary was equipped with a unique combination of weapons. Firstly he was armed with a gladius. These were special short swords patterned after those of the Spanish Celts. The gladius was intended to be a thrusting and stabbing weapon.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work