Mirroring Isolation in CoL49

My final thoughts on Pynchon’s novel, brought to my blog from my post on our course WordPress page.

Oedipa’s tale ends just as it began, with her in isolation. However, the isolation that Oedipa finds herself in at the end of the novel is of a different kind than the loneliness she thought she felt in the beginning. Originally feeling like Rapunzel locked away in her tower, Oedipa transforms into a self-imposed isolationist after discovering more than she could handle of the Tristero. Oedipa’s self-destructive and suicidal tendencies have placed her in a position of sympathy with the dead or dying. In the San Franciso gay bar, the Greek Way, Oedipa is told by a loner the account of a depressed man who attempted suicide. This tale will mirror her own later on in the novel.
Upon finding out that he was fired from his job and shortly before learning that his wife is being unfaithful to him, the mid-range business executive saturates himself with gasoline and pulls out his lighter. Discovering his wife’s infidelity sends him into a moment of insane clarity and he decides to live in self-imposed isolation while also renouncing love of any sort. This becomes one of the easiest to miss and yet most important instances of foreshadowing in the Crying of Lot 49. Later on in the novel, Oedipa calls the Greek Way and connects to the very same loner who told her the story of the suicidal executive. She tells him “It’s over,” meaning her search for meaning behind the Tristero. She continues, “They saturated me. From now on I’ll close them out.” Giving up her quest and soon losing Pierce’s estate to auction, Oedipa ends up like the executive. With all of her ties to her past life now being severed, Oedipa ends the novel in anonymity. While the audience does not discover what truly happens to Oedipa, we are left witnessing what could be the beginning of a brand new quest for Oedipa.


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