Pynchon vs Wallace – The Crying of Lot 49

In a couple of the essays we’ve read, David Foster Wallace has been compared to Thomas Pynchon as a writer.   For anyone who has read The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon, I’d like to compare the novel with The Broom of the System because I have noticed a lot of similarities between the two.

The Crying of Lot 49 is a novel about a jaded housewife named Oedipa Maas who learns that the man that she used to be having an affair with, a real estate mogul named Pierce Inverarity, has died.   After his death, Oedipa is named the executor of his will and decides to leave her husband in the suburbs to ensure that Pierce’s wishes are carried out.   To make a long (and complicated) story short, the things Oedipa must carry out in the will lead her into a sort of game, a conspiracy that Pierce may or may not have been a part of.   Oedipa tries to find herself while running in circles trying to uncover this conspiracy, even though it is hinted that the conspiracy is all in Oedipa’s imagination.

Lenore Beadsman is similar to Oedipa not just because she is another woman trying to find herself.   Oedipa wonders whether or not the conspiracy is a product of her imagination, but regardless she feels compelled to find answers to her questions, in the hopes of finding out who she is.   Similarly, Lenore wonders whether her identity serves any purpose at all, or if everything is just “exactly as real as it’s said to be,” (Broom 122) as the Wittgenstein-loving Gramma Lenore says.   And even as ridiculous and game-like the whole situation between Lenore’s father, his company, and Gramma Lenore is, Lenore feels compelled to carry out her father’s wishes when he asks her to go visit her brother Stoney, or LaVache, or Antichrist.

At the end of Part One, LaVache lends a new perspective on Lenore’s current situation and what her future might hold.   He makes her out to be a pawn in the family’s game of who-is-really-in-charge-of-the-company, and describes both their father and Gramma Lenore as conspirators against Lenore to trick her to work for the company.   LaVache says, “But so you’re it.   You are the family, Lenore.   And in Dad’s case, go ahead and substitute ‘Company’ in the obvious place in the above sentence,” (Broom 249).

Neither woman asked to be involved in these complicated situations; Lenore works for minimum wage to escape her family’s business, and Oedipa retreated to the suburbs to try to escape her complex affair.   But as Lenore gets more and more involved in the intricacies of the secrets her father and Gramma Lenore have been hiding, Lenore cannot help but get personally involved.

Is this a sign that Lenore might actually care about who she is, or what her identity is?   Perhaps she has a sense that she is more than just a character in a story?

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