Tag: rationality

Relevance of structural mistakes in The Crying of Lot 49

“‘Metzger,’ it occurred to her, ‘what is a potsmaster?’ … ‘So they make misprints,’ Metzger said, ‘let them. As long as they’re careful about not pressing the wrong button, you know?'” (33). The irony of course is that the “wrong button” is in fact exactly what is pressed in order to make the typo from postmaster to potsmaster. The dialogue therefore becomes not about whether there is a level of control placed by a higher power onto this fictional world but to what point it is greatly influential on the lives and experiences of the characters – obviously the press of a nuclear button dramatically influences the ability for the characters to interact in the world, while a misprint on an envelope has fewer consequences. But the question arises; what if an obscene message is received? Can it be reported? The function of the notice has lost all relevance to the world because of an uncontrollable structure. The private postage conspiracy that follows this event is then given new meaning; if the purpose of the conspiracy is to fight this uncontrollable power, the same power that has mislabeled the direction for how to report a letter, is the problem it tries to fix worth the effort, and if it is, is there any solution that comes out of division of power anyway?

What do all the signs mean

I think one of the most helpful points from the Melley reading was his discussion of the source of paranoia is the confusion about how to interpret the meaning of any given sign and its context. He writes that it is impossible to confirm a conspiracy because of the “paradoxical assumption that any message one can easily detect must not be the truest message of the text.” This was helpful for orienting my experience of the text because, as soon as I started the book, I felt overwhelmed by the amount of information that was given to us. However, what I’ve gathered is that there’s a mystery to figure out. Which, again, is interesting because, in light of the Melley, we are now forced to interact with multiple forms of paranoia in the text and challenge whether this is actually “paranoia” in the unfounded sense or not. Not only is there the PPS, who have come up with their own mailing system through The Scope but also Oedipa herself and her quest to understand Pierce Inverarity’s belongings. We watch Oedipa’s interest pique and her slow dove-tailing of both the world of PPS and Inverarity’s estate over the course of the novel. From the stamp collection to the alternative mail system, and finally the play, The Courier’s Tragedy. We finally see Oedipa give into development by watching her gradually buy into the idea that there is a potential conspiracy. It’s really satisying to go back and read the book up through this moment at the end of chapter three when she reacts to the Trystero reveal and then goes to the director to discuss it. I think there is a clear throughline between what Oedipa interprets and finds in reality up until this point (for example, nailing the motel worker’s paranoia of showing attraction to her). We can see her challenge her interpretive skills in the scene where she believes that she may have to report Mucho’s letter to the postmaster, and finally the degradation her faith in her ability to interpret in chapter three by diving into the conspiracy.