Indifference and Subjugation of Women in The Crying of Lot 49

Categories: Novel


The text The Crying of Lot 49 is a book written by Thomas Pynchon the dwells on the life of an American housewife. Distinctively, the setting of the book is in the 1960s when the postal system was the main medium of communication. In the book, Oedipa is the central protagonist who is tasked with responsibility of fulfilling her first ex-husband's will. Subsequently, Oedipa embarks on a quest to fulfill the will that leads to a discovery of a conspiracy. Notably, the experiences of the protagonist lead to her personal unearthing of the nature of the American Society.

Oedipa'a quest leads to her discovery of indifference and subjugation of women in the American Society that is supported through the themes of gender chauvinism and conformity.


Critically, indifference is a discovery made by Oedipa during her quest to fulfill the will of Pierce. As showcased in the novel, Oedipa rarely communicated with her husband on an emotional level. Likewise, the protagonist was not overly concerned with approval from her husband during her quest.

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Through extrapolation, Oedipa's relationship with her husband is a reflection of indifference of women in American Society. Distinctively, Oedipa's husband worked as a radio disc jockey and had numerous sexual encounters with teenage girls outside marriage. It is evident that Oedipa is aware of the infidelity of her husband but displays an indifferent attitude. Subsequently indifference leads to a mere comment of statutory rape by the protagonist concerning her husband's infidelity. (Pynchon 31). Notably, the resilience and commitment shared by the protagonist as she pursues her quest can be interpreted as an initiative intended to compensate on her indifference during marriage.

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Distinctively, Oedipa embarks on a journey to discover the truth of the postal system in America, which subsequently destroys her marriage and other social interactions. Hence Oedipa's marriage to Mucho is a reflection of indifference and a cavalier attitude that she became aware of during her mission to execute the will.

Next, the sexual encounter between Oedipa and her co-executor reveals indifference as a discovery made by the protagonist. Notably, as the two characters were playing Strip Boticelli, Oedipa becomes angry with her co-executor who tries to seduce her. However, despite the early reservations by the protagonist, she eventually allows the co-executor (Pynchon 27). The incident ends with Oedipa crying and her co-executor embracing the protagonist. Distinctively, the crying of Oedipa can be explained as a self-discovery process. For instance, Oedipa's crying showcases the disappointment of the character who is cavalier and does not consider the repercussions of her actions in life. Thus Oedipa's interaction envisions a personal discovery journey of a cavalier attitude in the protagonist.


Similarly, the quest by Oedipa reveals subjugation against the protagonist. As mentioned above, Oedipa leaves his current husband and embarks on the mission of fulfilling the will of Pierce. It is from this standpoint that the power of Pierce is still influential in the life of Oedipa despite his death. Consequently, the protagonists abandons her life with the ambition of executing the will and solving the mystery of the postal system. Notably, in the novel, Oedipa reveals her preference to the stillness of four walls rather than the misconceived perception of freedom (Pynchon 27). Distinctively, the sentiments shared by the protagonist reveals how the character recognizes subjugation of women in the American society.

Likewise, the inappropriate interaction between Oedipa and her psychiatrist becomes a point of self-discovery in the life of the protagonist. In the novel, Oedipa has frequent sessions with her psychiatrist. However, the relationship becomes toxic when the psychiatrist calls the protagonist at night. Moreover, the protagonist defends her fascination with the psychiatrist by stating how the sessions are beneficial (Pynchon 11). On the other hand, the psychiatrist capitalizes on the difficulties shared by Oedipa to try and run an experiment on the character. From an analytical perspective, the interaction between Oedipa and the psychiatrist depicts chauvinism and discrimination where the medical expert does not consider the well-being of the patient. Additionally, the attempt of the psychiatrist to enroll Oedipa for the LSD experiment showcases the egocentric nature of the professional. Thus the inappropriate interaction can be correlated with self-discovery where Oedipa recognizes discrimination and chauvinism against women in American society who become victims of subjugation.

Likewise, the mission to fulfill the will of Pierce enables Oedipa to correlate with domination by men in the American Society. After receiving the will, Oedipa approaches her lawyer with the intention of knowing how to best execute the directives. However, the lawyer perceives the encounter as an opportunity to sexually harass the protagonist (Pynchon 12). Critically, the experience is a path to self-discovery where the protagonist learns how chauvinism affects the perception of women in the American community. Additionally, the incident is a reflection of the indifference and complacency portrayed by women in the community. For instance, when the lawyer tries to harass the protagonist under the table, Oedipa ignores the attempt and seeks sanctuary in her boots (Pynchon 12). However, this is a copping mechanism and is a depiction of how women comply with the interest of men even if they are inappropriate. Hence, the incident becomes an essential step for self-discovery by Oedipa as she recognizes the presence of complacency, domination, and chauvinism in the society.

Lastly, the other discovery made by the protagonist in the novel is the relevance of a sense of purpose in life. Decisively, the Tristero mystery revealed how the protagonist lived a previous married life that was limited through physical and emotional isolation (Pynchon 308). Hence, the protagonist believes that by solving the mystery, she can regain purpose in life and value. Critically, a sense of purpose is important to the character as she previously lived a life of domination by men where her opinions and beliefs did not matter. Thus the unravelling of the Tristero mystery is a self-discovery process in the life of Oedipa that allows her to appreciate the importance of a sense of purpose in life.


Decisively, the analysis of the novel reflects various atrocities evident in the American community. As discussed above, women are faced with subjugation that is supported through conformity. Likewise indifference and complacency are traits portrayed by women, which facilitate atrocities against the gender. Critically, the analysis elicits a new perspective and mentality needed to address vices in the community and protect the welfare of women. For instance, self-discovery as showcased through the life of Oedipa is important as it enables an individual to understand limitations in life and take effective remedial strategies. Additionally, there is a need to resolve chauvinism, which often leads to domination of women that is dehumanizing. Hence, the review reveals the challenges to be addressed to guarantee the development of a fair and just American Society.

Updated: Feb 15, 2024
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Indifference and Subjugation of Women in The Crying of Lot 49. (2024, Feb 15). Retrieved from

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