I’m really fascinated by Todoov’s idea that characters are parallel readers of the narrative world and the way that Pynchon’s postmodern approach deliberately frustrates and complicates both the character’s and our own ability to discern what’s going on here. On page 124, Oedipa experiences another distressing episode of uncertainty, confusion, and paranoia that seems to be speaking to a much broader crisis of epistemology: “The act of metaphor then was a thrust at truth and a lie, depending where you were: inside, safe, or outside, lost. Oedipa did not know where she was.” Here, her confusion may stem from a distrust of her own senses and memory but it is not so much a loss of epistemological certainty so much as an acceptance that any ideas or knowledge she generates will be subjective and impossible to confirm definitively.
If, as was suggested at the end of class on Monday, we are to read Oedipa as a modernist figure learning to live in a post modern world, then this moment is a key step in that process.For Oedipa, this crisis of knowledge production and interpretation is a key moment in her agency panic. I think a reasonable reader stops trusting Oedipa as an authority early on. At this moment, she not only comes to distrust herself as well, but also loses faith in metaphor itself -a building block of narrative description and, research suggests, cognition and reason. That is a fundamental crisis of epistemology. Characters like Oedipa and the invisible man certainly experience agency panic, but their epistemological relationship to the narrative world is an essential part of their character that underpins our experience as a reader.