Simulacrum within Pynchon’s "The Crying of Lot 49"

Literature Review, 2012
4 Pages, Grade: A-


Simulacrum within Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49

By Dominika Oliver

One of the most common themes of Postmodernism is the concept of Simulacrum, an inferior reproduction of a unique object. Nothing within the world is original or inspired and the world is made up of cheap copies, used concepts and driven by consumerism. Thomas Pynchon, one of the most famous authors within the Postmodern genre, creates a commentary of the southern California environment and its plasticity. Throughout the novel, Pynchon uses his characters as analogies for simulacrum, which ultimately is a cause for their downfall. Simulacrum is personified within the novel by several of the characters, from the protagonist, Oedipa Maas, who seeks to escape this concept to her husband, Mucho Maas, who surrounds himself within a world of used objects to the Paranoids, a band within the novel, who themselves embody the concept and Standley Koteks, who actively fights against the lack of innovation.

Pynchon writes the Crying of Lot 49 in the year 1967 where the book itself is a play off the modernist genre of the main character going off to have an adventure, meeting strange characters along the way, and ultimately finding a type of enlightenment. On one average day, the protagonist Oedipa Maas gets a call from a law firm stating that she must take care of the estate of her recently-deceased ex-boyfriend, leaving her husband, Mucho Maas, alone. However, the story focuses on the conspiracy of the mailing system and the various people she meets along the way, such as a group known as the Paranoids and Standley Kotek, a man who joins the Tristero out of his hatred for corporations. In the end, Oedipa does not find any enlightenment and she becomes trapped in the maze of the conspiracy while waiting for a man who will buy a fake stamp.

Within the first few lines of the novel, Pynchon sets the tone for this world of cheap reproductions. Oedipa Maas comes home from a Tupperware party, slightly tipsy from kirsch which the unnamed hostess put into the fondue, to find that she must take care of the estate of Pierce Inverarity who had been an ex-boyfriend of hers. Within this brief introduction lie several instances of cheap remakes, from Tupperware, a form of inexpensive plastic dishware marketed towards the masses, to kirsch, a brandy knockoff. Tupperware, kirsch and fondue were all popular products to the middle-class culture of the 60’s and suggest that Oedipa is the quintessential housewife. Pynchon’s tone within this opening sentence suggests that these imitations had made up a large part of Oedipa’s life before the responsibility is thrust upon her. (Pynchon 1)


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Simulacrum within Pynchon’s "The Crying of Lot 49"
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the Crying of Lot 49
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Dominika Oliver (Author), 2012, Simulacrum within Pynchon’s "The Crying of Lot 49", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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