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The Maturation of Oedipa

analytical Essay
915 words
915 words
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Happily Never After

“And they lived happily ever after.” In so many words or less this pleasant conclusion permeates the typical literature we enjoy. By the end of the novel, the protagonist has always solved his or her problem, gained new insight, made amends, grown stronger, or been blessed finally with good fortune. As readers, we are accustomed to turning the final page with a new sense of enlightenment and understanding of the plotline and the message of the novel. However, readers are denied this concluding satisfaction in Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 and John Updike’s Rabbit, Run. Both novels leave their main characters questioning and struggling to make sense of the events that preceded them. Although characterized by similar themes of uncertainty, the main characters of the two novels, Rabbit Angstrom and Oedipa Maas, react differently to the unknown, but in both stories the reader is denied knowledge of the outcome.

Where a reader expects to receive answers to questions, Pynchon and Updike simply pose more questions and emphasize the doubt of the protagonists in the final chapter. The closing scene in Rabbit, Run is dominated by a refrain of “I don’t know,” as Ruth attempts to get answers out of Rabbit (Updike 262- 264). After a whole novel delving into Rabbit’s relationships with his family and his struggle to realize and fulfill his responsibility to them, one would expect an ending where Rabbit transforms into a stronger character that finally figures out and comes to term with his obligations. Instead, we see Ruth bombarding him with questions about his wife and son and about what Rabbit is going to do about his family and Rabbit responds, “I don’t know any of these answers” (Updike 262). Updike goes on ...

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...r know to where Rabbit runs or who buys the stamps at the auction. The similar endings of these novels along with being published within five years of each other suggests the time period, the 1960s, during which these books were written, had a comparable influence on Pynchon and Updike. The sixties were a decade of change and uproar; uncertainty definitely played a large role in people’s everyday lives and it seems that this uncertainty found its way into the literature of the time. Parallels to the differences in Rabbit and Oedipa’s reactions can be seen in the sixties as well. Similar to Rabbit, escapism through the iconic “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” was prevalent. Although the endings of these two novels are quite unsatisfying, both Pynchon and Updike are telling us much more than we think as the influences of the time period are reflected in their style.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how pynchon's the crying of lot 49 and updike’s rabbit, run leave their main characters questioning and struggling to make sense of the events that preceded them.
  • Analyzes how pynchon and updike pose more questions and emphasize the doubt of the protagonists in the final chapter of rabbit, run.
  • Analyzes how pynchon provides none of the expected answers or solutions in the final scene of the crying of lot 49.
  • Analyzes how rabbit angstrom and oedipa maas react differently to extreme uncertainty as each of their stories come to a close.
  • Analyzes how the endings of pynchon and updike are unsatisfying due to the increasing uncertainty in the final scene of both stories.
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