56 pages 1 hour read

Thomas Pynchon

The Crying of Lot 49

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1966

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Character Analysis

Oedipa Maas

Oedipa Maas is the protagonist of the novel. At first, she fits the stereotype of a mid-century American housewife. She attends Tupperware parties where she drinks slightly too much and then returns home to prepare dinner and cocktails for her professional husband. She lives in a suburban town and seems alienated from any meaningful kind of existence. The stereotypical nature of her character becomes an important aspect of the novel. The portrayal of social alienation in The Crying of Lot 49 is broad. The entire society is subsumed into the consumerist, disconnected, dissatisfied form of existence. Oedipa is not a conventional protagonist, yet the generic nature of her character (as portrayed in the opening sentence of the novel) gives meaning to her search. Through her typical nature, she becomes the embodiment of the drifting, alienated form of existence from which everyone seeks to escape. She is disempowered and disinterested, which is exactly what makes the Tristero conspiracy so compelling for her. She drives relentlessly on in her investigation because she desperately craves some form of meaning, rather than the meaningless existence she experienced before. She is somewhat round, although the flatness of the author’s characters typically nuances the plot, and is dynamic.