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Reece Jordan

Reece Jordan


Total Article : 168

About Me:18-year-old sixth form student, studying English Literature, History and Government and Politics. My articles will broadly cover topics from the current affairs of politics to reviews of books and albums, as well as adding my own creative pieces, whether it be short fiction or general opinion.

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Should we question the way we read? pt.2

Should we question the way we read? pt.2

The novella also parodies the notion of finding revelation through intertextual features in the narrative. This is saliently shown when Oedipa decides to see a play in the style of Jacobean theatre on account of overhearing that it bears a resemblance to a scandal to do with dug-up bones. Reference to older plays and poems as a means for giving insight to a novel’s meaning is, like giving characters charged names, a literary convention. Usually the reference comes from a few lines or so whereas in Pynchon’s text this idea has been exaggerated to include a summary of the entire play. After the first act, the man Oedipa has taken along with her, Metzger, asks if she wants to leave. She replies, ‘I want to see about the bones’. This establishes the idea that within the play there is unnecessary information unconnected to the reason she has gone there which she and the reader must sit through. The narrative voice then adds: ‘She had to wait till the fourth act’ and then proceeds the summary. Steed states that because Oedipa ‘must sit through the whole play, she cannot simply verify the resemblance. She must take in new information.’ Indeed, she gets fixated on the word ‘Trystero’, a word completely unconnected with the bone scandal – so much so that after speaking to the director of the play, she says ‘I went in there to ask about bones and instead we talked about the Trystero thing.’ Thus, by forcing both Oedipa and the reader through the entirety of the play, and having Oedipa distracted from her original reason to watch it, Pynchon illustrates how intertextual detail can obfuscate and misdirect meaning rather than provide it; it gives us further information which we must ‘sort’ and give order to.


As well as illustrating how susceptible we are to being misled by further information, Pynchon also shows how we choose to neglect that which opposes the pattern when making our ‘constellations’. When Oedipa and Metzger head to Lake Inverarity, the Paranoids, a band that has been following them, decide to steal a boat. Seeing this, Oedipa asks Metzger why he is walking around with his eyes closed to which he replies ‘Larceny… they’ll need a lawyer’. Metzger is choosing not to be a witness as this would negate his chances of being their lawyer. This could be Pynchon illustrating the corrupt nature of the American justice system, but it also points to how we choose to read literature, especially when Oedipa mirrors this act in Chapter 5. Upon coming across children singing a song which ends with the line ‘Turning taxi from across the sea’, she tries to correct them to a pattern she has found: ‘Thurn and Taxis, you mean?’ When they reply in the negative, ‘Oedipa, to retaliate, stopped believing in them.’


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