In Chapters 5 and 6 of The Crying of Lot 49, Oedipa becomes increasingly isolated from her friends and family. Mucho is lost to LSD, Dr. Hilarius goes mad, and Metzger elopes, and Driblette commits suicide, to name a few specific instances. Oedipa’s world, both the “real” domain as well as the one concerning Tristero and Thurn and Taxi, is spiraling out of control. This growing feeling of isolation is hinted earlier on at the beginning of Chapter 5 when the narrator observes, “Oedipa sat, feeling as alone as she ever had, now the only woman, she saw, in a room full of drunken male homosexuals…Despair came over her, as it will when nobody around has any sexual relevance to you” (94). In a scene reminiscent of T. S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland,” parallels can be drawn between Oedipa and the typist, especially with relation to the young man carbuncular in an automatic, emotionally empty sexual encounter in “The Fire Sermon.” The level of dissonance in Pynchon’s amalgamation of multiple cultural, geographical, and chronological spaces also relates closely with the cacophonous melding that erupts in The Waste Land.
The sheer lack of communication and genuine human interaction between characters, further worsened by the protagonist’s growing retreat into herself and conspiracy theories, also cuts ties between the reader and the world of The Crying of Lot 49. Oedipa is the main lens through which readers can explore the novel’s fictional world, and this lens becomes increasingly clouded or fractured as Oedipa cuts her ties, either intentionally or not, to this world. The third person limited point of view also contributes to this growing sense of loss and isolation on both the part of Oedipa and the reader. Even as Oedipa learns more about Tristero, only more questions follow, and as she begins to doubt whether her entire voyage might be a foolish wild-goose chase orchestrated by Pierce and becomes suspicious of the acquaintances that are still alive and relatively sane, the reader faces a repeating dilemma of who to trust as options exponentially narrow as the novel races towards an inconclusive end.
In chapters 4 to 5 of Invisible Man, the invisible man’s colleagues are described as “frozen in solemn masks”, singing “mechanically” (p.111) the songs white men love to hear black people sing. As the college is shrouded in deceits and lies – and its prime member Dr. Bledsoe most of all, the invisible man’s relationship to others is redefined through the lens of a dichotomy between transparency and deceit. As he becomes the only character to be completely transparent (to the point that Bledsoe does not even believe him, see “Don’t lie to me!” p. 139) he is made aware of the differences with those around him. His interior life may stay transparent to the reader, through the mechanics of the first person narration, but by the end of chapter nine, the subconscious nature of his previous dreams, starring his grandfather chasing and belittling him, take on a more conscious meaning as he starts “dreaming of revenge” (p.195).
One of the most perplexing characters thus far in Invisible Man is Dr. Bledsoe, who seems to toe the line between self-awareness and self-deception. Dr. Bledsoe revels in his own personal belief that he pulls the strings; he is the masked puppeteer, the ultimate ruler dominating the school, “the king down here” (142). He seems so self-assured of his own power, a power that imbues him with a confidence in his own selfhood, differentiating him from other blacks and placing him at the top of the white power structure. Ironically, Dr. Bledsoe does exactly what the invisible man’s grandfather advised: he confesses, “I had to be strong and purposeful to get where I am. I had to wait and plan and lick around . . . Yes, I had to act the nigger!” (143). However, rather than utilizing deceit to rebel against the racist system, he only further perpetuates it by fooling both white and black people in order to propel himself into what he conceives as his own free power space, but is actually a crevice of self-deception he has carved out for himself. He warns, “When you buck against me, you’re bucking against power, rich white folk’s power, the nation’s power” (142), failing to see that he is as much a victim of racism as other blacks and that his consistent two-faced actions that dictate his life only further embed him into the power structure that he believes he has escaped.