The name of the heroine of The Crying of Lot 49, Oedipa Maas, has been the subject of several speculations. While her given name, Oedipa, seems to pose no serious problem, her family name, Maas, has been interpreted in various ways, with references ranging from the Newtonian category "mass" to the low pun "my ass." Basing my argument on the truism that entropy is a most important concept in Pynchon's work in general, and in "Entropy" and The Crying of Lot 49 especially, I suggest another possible source for the name Oedipa Maas in the work of a central figure in the field of thermodynamics who has not been dealt with in Pynchon criticism so far. Although Willard Gibbs, Henry Adams, and especially James Clerk Maxwell have figured prominently in critical essays on The Crying of Lot 49, I want to draw attention to Herrmann von Helmholtz, one of the greatest minds of the nineteenth century, whom James Clerk Maxwell considered an "intellectual giant" (598).
How to Cite:
Herzogenrath, B., 1997. A Possible Source for the Name Oedipa Maas. Pynchon Notes, (40-41), pp.107–109. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/pn.165