A prominent theme among the writings of many postmodern analysts in characterizing postmodernism is the notion that the age of post-modernity is essentially the age of commercialism and commoditization. In his book The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, Jean- François Lyotard contends that whereas modernity is marked by the pursuit of bettering the human condition, postmodernism is marked by a loss of faith in progress and the pursuit of profit and efficiency. He argues that two grand narratives permeated modernism: the speculation grand narrative, which charts knowledge in the pursuit of a universal theory about humanity's place in the universe, and the emancipation grand narrative which concerns itself with freeing humanity from prejudice and ignorance through education.
[...] of Lot 49 therefore displays transformation from belief in progress to the loss of faith in progress described by Lyotard, but not in a way that it exemplifies it ; rather, the novel produces a critique of postmodernist commodification. The most obvious form of commodification in the novel is the transformation of living beings, or once living beings, into commodities to be sold for profit. For example, human bones within the novel are repeatedly treated as means of turning profit, rather than the remnants of human life. [...]
[...] In addition to this commodification of lives, Pynchon has abstracts commodified within the novel, displayed in the way in which Pierce rescues Oedipa from her metaphorical tower. Oedipa says that somehow she had cast herself into the role of curious, Rapunzel-like role of a pensive girl magically prisoner among the pines and salt fogs of Kinneret,” and Pierce turns out to be the man capable of rescuing her (Pynchon 12). However, when Pierce tries to take the classic fairy-tale route of rescue, that is, by climbing the hair of his beloved, Oedipa's hair turns into a wig and Pierce falls. [...]
[...] Consequently, the making of the dandelions into a wine shows again the commodification of human life both in that the dandelion and the bones are connected such that commodification of the dandelion as a wine means commodification of human life and in that the dandelion serves as a reminder of destruction of cemeteries for the purpose of monetary gain. However, in using such an extreme example of transformation of people into commodities with the bones within the novel, Pynchon is parodying the commercialism Lyotard claims characterizes postmodernism within his novel. [...]
[...] Rather, the novel purposefully rather than subconsciously inserts these cases of commodification throughout the plot, evidenced both by the amount of obvious instances of commodification and the extremity of these instances. The novel therefore allies itself with Lyotard in critiquing and parodying the pervasiveness of society's obsession with profit. However, just because The Crying of Lot 49 buys into this idea of enhanced commodification in the postmodern age and protests against it, does not mean it can't be classified as a postmodern novel. The novel is only anti-postmodern in the Lyotardian sense [...]
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