A Comparison of Crying of Lot 49 and White Noise
Pynchon's novel The Crying of Lot 49 has much in common with Don DeLillo's book White Noise. Both novels uncannily share certain types of characters, parts of plot structure and themes. The similarities of these two works clearly indicates a cultural conception shared by two influential and respected contemporary authors.
Character similarities in the two novels are found in both the main characters and in some that are tangential to the plots. The two protagonists of the works, Oedipa Maas of Lot 49 and Jack Gladney of White Noise, are characters struggling to make sense of their worlds, and yet, both are afraid to face pure, filtered truth. Oedipa is inadvertently sent on a quest, which she embraces as a possible mechanism of bringing new meaning into world of tupperware parties. On her journey Oedipa is innundated with new and baffling information which she is either a series of clues to a counter culture or Pierce Inverarity's attempt to extend himself beyond his death. This dichotomy sets up the theme of binary opposites in novel. Oedipa's journey does not end in a final choice of one realm or the other, confirming one of the novel's other assertions, that excluded middles are "bad shit" ( J. Kerry Grant eloquently discusses Oedipa's journey in terms of binary opposites and a search for meaning in the introduction to his A Companion to "The Crying of Lot 49" (pp. xv-xvi)).
Jack Gladney also involves himself and his family in a series of journeys, which are searches for safety and understanding, yet share Oedipa's focus on finding a new reason for existence. Jack and his wife Babbette are afraid of dying. Their worries, conversations, and the majority of the life actions revolve around the avoidance of dying, and the topic of death. Their attempts to escape death are more accurately an attempt to regain their own lives, i.e. to find meaning to make their lives their own.
The Gladney's first attempts/voyages are escapist in nature. In White Noise Jack, when discussing the life of Attila the Hun, presents his view of mankind's life and death.
"[Attila had] No weakening of the spirit. No
sense of the irony of human existence, that we are
the highest form of life on earth and yet ineffably
sad because we know what no other animal knows,
that we must die" (p.20).
It is this looming sense of death that entraps Jack, Babette and even their kids. The family's most basic form of death avoidance manifests itself in their obsession with things and their physical presences. Jack maintains himself as a rather large man and he is reassured by Babette's physical bulk: "I suggested there was an honesty inherent in bulkiness if it is just the right amount. People trust a certain amount of bulk in others" (p.7). This idea is...