Talk:Chapter 1

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Oedipa's name, further discussion

Some suggest the Oedipus reference is to an incident earlier in the king's career, having to do, in fact, with the way he became king of Thebes. Oedipus famously solved the riddle of the Sphinx and heroically freed Thebes of her curse (cf. the deeds of young Theseus, the labors of Herakles, etc.). Sophocles' play has an older Oedipus finally figuring out the riddle of his own birth, over-confident in his own ability to figure things out. Oedipus is the riddle-solver, by definition. And doesn't it make sense to think of Oedipa as a riddle-solver? Q.E.D. Now the riddle is sometimes said to be "what walks on four feet in the morning, two feet in the afternoon, and three feet at night?" The answer is man (baby=4; man=2; old man with cane = 3), which is where this gets interesting: one of the legendary precepts engraved on the temple of Apollo at Delphi is "gnothi seauton", "know yourself". This almost certainly is taken to mean not (as we might tend to think) that we should discover ourselves as individuals, but rather that we should know our own nature, i.e. the nature of mankind, i.e. "know that you are mortal". Oedipus solves the riddle of the Sphinx with the answer "man", but he doesn't know himself as a man, fallible and doomed--count no man blessed until he's dead, Greeks were fond of saying--not until the peak of his powers, walking on two legs, so to speak. His story doesn't end there: he wanders the earth blind after putting out his eyes (death would be too good for himself), and eventually as an old man settles on Athens as a place to die, knowing that his spirit will be a powerful force in the land of his death (see Soph., Oedipus at Colonus). This is the essence of a hero for the Greeks, a mortal who remains powerful in death, as is reflected in their practice of hero-cult offerings at grave sites (compare, say, Xtian saints' relics, bones thought to have power). As an old man, Oedipus is like a holy prophet (compare the blind sage Tieresias, or the legendary blind poet Homer), a man who sees without eyes (compare what Paul Atreides becomes in the second Dune novel). So, does Oedipa ascend to some deeper understanding by the end of the novel? Wait and see.
Oedipa's name is probably pronounced in the American fashion, ED-i-pa, not British fashion, EED-i-pa, because Mucho uses the short form "Oed," which almost has to be ED.
A further comic level in the name Oedipa: It looks like a feminization of Oedipus, which is a Latin name derived from the Greek Oidipous. While -pus has the look of a word-ending that might alternate between masculine and feminine forms, like proper names Julius/Julia or adjectives sanctus/sanctum/sancta, in fact it stands in for Greek -pous, meaning "foot," a form that doesn't alternate. (All feet are the same gender no matter who's wearing them.) Whoever coined the name Oedipa pretended to know a little more than they really did.

Additionally, there is the Freudian concept of the Oedipal Complex. Basically, a son loves his mother (in an unconscious sexual way) and is jealous of his father and wants to kill him and have his mom all to himself. The daughter version of this is called the Electra Complex. In the Electra Complex the daughter is upset that she has no penis and is jealous of her father's penis and becomes angry at him ("penis envy").

Psychological concepts run rampant throughout The Crying of Lot 49, usually parodied as if they were being reflected back in a funhouse mirror. When the novel was issued in 1966, many parodies concerning psychotherapy were in progress, noteably 1967's inspired The Presidents's Analyst. At the center of this parody, the patient saves the doctor from himself.

Viewing Oedipus Rex as an early Whodunit", as our author does in CoL49, one remembers that the plot resolution of 'Oedipus Rex' reveals our proto-typical gumshoe realizing he was the perp' all along, Oedipus is the detective that swears vengance on Oedipus the criminal. Oedipus is blinded by his revelation. Revelation, Illumination, the "Knowing" that came to so many who took on hip new therapys in the '60's, sometimes the blindness that came from seeing too much, all elements in the story. . . .


Hollander's reference to Bartók is rather superficial. Most Hungarian listeners can identify the "serenade theme" in Movement Four as the chorus of a popular irredentist song, nostalgic enough as it was written after Hungary's dismemberment in the Treaty of Trianon (1920), when Transylvania was attached to Romania (see the reference to the "Transylvanian Consulate" on the next page). So even if not "dry", it definitely sounds "disconsolate", an expression of desperate homesickness. Musicologists cannot quite pin down why Bartók chose to paraphrase such a trivial song; the most recent theory is that by giving it a Romanian rhythmic twist, he expressed his nostalgia for the multicultural Greater Hungary thad had been lost forever. (Sorry but I can only give a Hungarian link; the musical sheet is at the bottom.) I think the main theme here is intrusion rather than exile as the serenade tune is disrupted by the Shostakovichian "drunken gang".

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