To write a paper on the postmodernism of The Crying of Lot 49, it might be helpful to establish a definition of postmodernism. Once the elements of postmodernism have been identified, they can be discussed in relation to Thomas Pynchon’s novel.
One feature of postmodernism is the disavowal of a coherent, straightforward narrative. Many postmodernists were skeptical of stories that were too easy to follow and contained a nice, neat beginning, middle, and ending. For postmodernists, the world is fragmented and disordered.
Pynchon’s novel is far from tidy. There are many twists and turns. There’s enigmatic horn symbols, Jacobean theater, and some very suspicious attitudes about the postal service. Additionally, there’s A.I.-like machines, Nazi references, and a psychotherapist who prescribes LSD.
The proliferation of characters and events relates to another trait of postmodernism: information. Many postmodernists highlighted the abundance of information and data in a modern society. In The Crying of Lot 49, Oedipa is beset by information. She receives such a large quantity of information from such a vast array of people that it’s hard for her to figure out what’s true and what isn’t.
Indeed, Oedipa doesn’t not have an easy time investigating Pierce Inverarity and the several schemes connected to him. Her inability to obtain the clear truth connects to postmodernism as well. It reflects postmodernism’s suspicion of absolute truth and a concrete, universal reality.