Pynchon's attention to cultural frameworks (here using the connotation of ethnic, tribal, "racial", or national boundaries) within America is telling, because it demonstrates a vector of concern that crosses the nineteenth century from Poe. This space in time covers the development of cultural anthropology and a heightened western interest in the practices of "primitive" peoples. Pynchon's "Pachuco" sensitivity shows that a residue of Pym's anxieties about whiteness and the "Logos" still persist in 1960s America. However, it is not ultimately a monomania for America's cultural superiority and uniqueness that drives Pynchon's narratives. Rather, it is a fascination with the cultural multiplicity within America, and by this I imply a broader sense of the word culture, drawn not from the pages of anthropology or post-structuralist literary criticism, but rather from colloquial use. The word culture has come to denote any grouping of individuals who share or claim to share a similar discursive, allusive, or behavioral framework. Americans speak of "sub" cultures, "counter" cultures, "corporate" cultures, "gay" cultures, and "expert" cultures, as easily as they might speak of Hispanic-American culture, or even Spanish culture. Pynchon displays an interest in all of these various cultures, but he seems most intrigued by those cultures that control the lion's share of the power and influence in America: law, government, science, business, and medicine.
These cultures, dominated by white males, are the legacy of Poe's and Hawthorne's cultural environment - enlightenment rationalism - and their subsequent development into Victorian imperialism and the technological-industrial complex in the latter half of the 19th century. In V, Pynchon embodies this legacy in the figure of Victoria Manganese, the human referent of Herbert Stencil's glyphic discovery in his father's journals.
As in the case of Oedipa Mass, Stencil's compulsion to navigate a man's legacy takes him on an odyssey through those professional cultures whose discursive practices and intellectual habits have the greatest sway in American society. Tellingly, Stencil will find his greatest comfort in the company of "The Whole Sick Crew" (a motley collection of moral and ethnic refugees who lurk in the disempowered fringes of America), while his forays into the world of the professions leave him confused and alienated. Unlike the idioms of the junkie, the whore, and the goy, the languages of science and government control the discursive agenda of mainstream America. Also unlike the "The Whole Sick Crew", these linguistic communities are obsessively textual, built upon mountains of official reports, legal briefs, charts, tables, and papers. Their daily business depends acutely upon language that sits still - on words whose meanings do not change across regions and contexts, across decades or even centuries. The elder Stencil's reluctance to record V's legacy in any official report is but one example of Pynchon's repeated jabs at this obsession with text - text over orality, text over the visual, and even text over the humane. While Stencil's fringe-dwelling pals may seem profane and sick, their lives are only a foregrounded analogue for the deeper perversity of the mainstream. Pynchon implies that the insistence of the professional cultures on a false epistemological stability and their refusal to see language as an organic body are eating away at America. The "Pachuco" phenomenon, then, is not evidence of the degradation of lanugage. On the contrary. It is its only chance for survival.
Pynchon's texts beg for this shift in perspective, even as his protagonists seemingly struggle for an authorititative textual resolution of their anxieties. The solution to Pynchon's epistemological dilemma is not a connection with origins, as Pym and Dimmesdale so fervently wanted to believe. Rather, Pynchon's solution is a confrontation with the dominant construction of epistemology itself. The manic quest to find stable and enduring meaning ironically turns out to be the greatest destructive force in V and The Crying of Lot 49. And the thing that it destroys is the act of communication, not between God and man, but between man and man, and man and woman. This is the sense in which Pynchon's encodings are fully glyphic. While for Hawthorne and Poe the multiple vectors of signification inherent in the hieroglyph made it a fearful and mysterious symbol, what is fearful and mysterious for Pynchon is the inability to grapple with, embrace, and value that multiplicity. In Pynchon, the glyph is such a rich figurative container precisely because it exists in textual, visual, and symoblic space, all at the same moment. Its ambiguity is the source of its usefulness in any of these contexts. Similarly, Pynchon's linguistic gamesmanship demonstrates that the richness of text derives from the multiple vectors of meaning which spring out from words to indicate referents in diverse idiomatic realms, from film to philology, from talk shows to literary criticism. Unlike Hawthorne and Poe, Pynchon seeks and achieves a fully realized mapping of glyphic signification onto prose style. This mapping serves to indicate that the desire to contain words and symbols within a single cultural context is simply a destructive illusion.