At the start of the novel, Oedipa is the type of suburban housewife who attends Tupperware parties. Once in a relationship with rich real estate mogul Pierce, Oedipa now lives a more modest existence with her disc jockey husband Mucho. Though she is reasonably satisfied with her life, she nevertheless feels like a "captive maiden" in a tower. When she is named an executor of Pierce's will, she perhaps sees the responsibility as a chance to usefully pass her time, although she is skeptical of Pierce's motivations. She settles into a motel in San Narciso and begins an affair with Metzger, the lawyer for Pierce's estate. She then begins to investigate the Tristero and its muted post horn symbol, which suddenly seems to appear everywhere she goes. Following leads to the Tristero, resourceful Oedipa comes in contact with many underground groups of disenfranchised people. As she becomes more sensitive to their plights, she becomes alienated from her own identity as a suburban housewife. She loses her shrink (Dr. Hilarius), her husband (Mucho), her lover (Metzger), and her main link to the Tristero (Driblette) in quick succession and feels isolated and sucked into the void she has always feared. When she ends up going to the auction of Pierce's estate, perhaps it is a willing surrender to a new identity in the counterculture. Oedipa's name is an allusion to Oedipus of Oedipus Rex (c. 430 BC), the main character in the play by Sophocles (c. 496–406 BC). Both characters are drawn into complicated plots beyond their control and suffer an identity crisis.
Wendell "Mucho" Maas
Oedipa describes Mucho as "too sensitive." Mucho used to work as a used-car salesman, but it made him anxious. Now he works as a disc jockey at a radio station, a profession he does not "believe in." Mucho cannot help Oedipa with her executorship, and while he is sad to see her go to San Narciso, he is not "desperate." Later he participates in Dr. Hilarius's LSD study and believes he can take apart voices. This is how he "knows" about Oedipa's dalliance with Metzger. Mucho Maas is close to the Spanish for "much more." This points to Mucho's delusions of grandeur and how Mucho believes himself to be "an antenna" connected to millions.
Metzger is extremely good looking. Once a child actor known as "Baby Igor," Metzger now works as a lawyer and is the coexecutor of Pierce's will. He seduces Oedipa using a bet about an old movie of his that happens to be playing on the television. When Oedipa leaves for San Francisco, Metzger is not "desperate" that she leaves him behind. When she returns, she finds out he has run off to elope with the 15-year-old girlfriend of Paranoids band member Serge. Metzger is German for "butcher," which is fitting when one considers Metzger treats women like pieces of meat.
Dr. Hilarius is Oedipa's psychiatrist, but he seems to need a psychiatrist himself. A former intern at the German concentration camp at Buchenwald during World War II (1939–45), Dr. Hilarius is highly paranoid that Israeli forces are after him and want revenge for his work on "experimentally-induced insanity." He claims he was not a "real Nazi," and he has spent his life attempting to atone for his actions. He locks himself in his office with a gun until he is finally taken into police custody. Oedipa discovers he gave LSD to Mucho while she was in San Narciso.