Prose and Character

Pynchon’s prose is very long-winded and expansive. The novel isn’t written in 1st person, but it definitely privileges and seems to reflect Oedipa’s disposition. Therefore, with the long sentences full of dependent clauses and asides set off by commas rather than hyphens, it feels very much like Oedipa has a very “bouncy,” erratic, and inconsistent personality. The prose doesn’t make her feel unreliable, but it does feel as though you have to have a more critical approach of her observations/actions.

At the beginning of Chapter 2, “she drove into San Narciso on a Sunday, in a rented Impala. Nothing was happening.” (14) Yet, the prose proceeds to describe a very active and sinuous terrain. There is alot of action on the ground just in terms of how the street infrastructure is set up. Nothing is happening, yet it seems that so much is happening. So the contrast between the action and the non-action makes me wonder whether or not it’s supposed to suggest an unreliability in the narrator or if the phrase “nothing was happening” points to a common human proclivity of saying nothing is happening when really something is always happening.  To what extent is the prose reflective of the character vs. the prose just being prose? Am I overthinking the line?

1 Comment

  1. I find the comment you make on Pynchon’s prose being long-winded and expansive, at times quite unnecessarily, to be a pivotal part of The Crying of Lot 49. Pynchon’s style is maze-like, reminiscent of a kaleidoscope, in how it frames the world, characters, and progression of the piece. Whether this narrative voice reflects Oedipa’s own erratic personality or simply hints at an unreliable narrator is an interesting question. I think attempting to link prose and character can be a compelling argument, and is something we discussed on our first day of class — writing style being indicative of our intimacy with a character and the character’s idiosyncrasies, personality, quirks, and deep, hidden thoughts. I definitely do not think you’re overthinking the line, since with Pynchon’s writing, there always seems to be more rumbling beneath the surface, that there is a molten core to the wild, untamed jungle that is his voice. As we learn more about Oedipa, both through Pynchon’s writing style as well as standard characterization techniques, I look forward to seeing more connections between prose and character.

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