The Crying of Lot 49

Miscommunication through Information Glut in Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 College

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate,” Strother Martin stated in the 1967 film, Cool Hand Luke. This line could have easily been used in Thomas Pynchon’s novella published a year earlier, The Crying of Lot 49. The often convoluted novella tells the story of Oedipa Maas, a 1960s Californian housewife who becomes entangled in a search for the truth of a historical mystery involving her ex, Pierce Inverarity, as part of a scandal featuring the underground postal service, the Trystero. The complex plot of the story repeatedly features miscommunication occurring between characters at the hand of the numerous forms of media featured. As Oedipa seeks to sort through what hints are, and are not valuable in her attempts of reaching the bottom of the mystery, she becomes overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of clues and information at hand. Pynchon portrays Oedipa’s confusion in solving the mystery to deliver the ultimate message of the novella: as a result of what Pynchon depicts as an information glut, it has become impossible to recognize valuable messages in the contemporary world. Thus, Pynchon’s pervading message in The Crying of Lot 49 is that in spite of developments in the media for communication aimed at bringing...

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