Defeating the Goon
One of the reoccurring symbols throughout Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad is time being a goon. Characters find it difficult to let go of the past, and this prevents them from moving forward.
Bennie Salazar is a character who is forced to endure the worst that time can offer, but ultimately uses it to his advantage. The symbol of time as a goon also stems into a major theme of the novel; time is a goon that can be beat. By showing Bennie’s struggle through life in great detail, Jennifer Egan illustrates that it is possible to win the battle against the goon. Time almost destroys Bennie. Bennie and his wife Stephanie are divorced, and initially Bennie was incapable of moving on. When he would drop his son off at his old house, Bennie would nostalgically think while, “finding it excruciating, watching his son’s long journey to the front door” (Egan 35).
Bennie wrongly thinks that trying to transform himself back into his youth will make his future brighter. Bennie wants a chance at his past, and is stuck in a negative thought cycle that revolves around what his life would be if he was still with Stephanie. Instead of accepting the fact that he needed to move on, Bennie chose to take gold flakes as an attempt to fix himself from, “the divorce from Stephanie.. The battle over Christopher..
.And having recently turned forty-four” (Egan 21). Bennie wasted his money buying the gold flakes that were only a temporary solution to his problems. His unhappiness in his personal life interfered with his work life, and in turn he saw deterioration in his professional career. Bennie hits rock bottom when he gets fired from his own record label.
At sixty years old, Bennie was “seen as irrelevant; usually referred to in the past tense” (Egan 312). Bennie used to be the best in the business, but he let time get the best of him and stall his personal progression. However, at his worst, Bennie is able to reignite the flame inside of him that got him passionate about music again. As Bennie aged, he picked up experience and knowledge as a music expert, but at the time he saw his age as a deterrent rather than an advantage. When Bennie realized that his passion and drive was incapable of aging, he began his comeback to success. He rekindled a friendship with Scotty, and used his expertise to make Scotty a star.
He organized a concert that “many thousands waited patiently-then less patiently” (Egan 331) to see. Bennie even moved on from his first marriage and used that experience to find love again with a woman named Lupa, who also came to the concert. The final concert with Scotty shows the success that Bennie was able to reestablish, by using time to his advantage. The details that Jennifer Egan chose to include in A Visit from the Goon Squad helped the audience understand clearly what Bennie was going through. Egan showed us insight to Bennie as a teenager, including images of Bennie performing and enjoying music. She even has another character remark that in regards to head bobbing to the music, “Bennie Does less of this.
I think he actually listens to the music” (Egan 46). This detail shows the audience the passion for music that Bennie had at a young age. Through this detail the audience is able to infer that the reasoning behind Bennie’s professional decisions stems from his passion and love for true music. It clarifies why Bennie hates the commercialization of music, because of his memories of what true music is. Details like this are common for Egan to use to describe Bennie, and without them, the audience wouldn’t be able to see exactly what Bennie’s passions were, and why he was able to defeat the goon.
Jennifer Egan introduces many characters throughout her novel. Many characters only appear for one chapter, and then the audience is told how their lives turn out in a short paragraph. By having Bennie a constant character throughout the book, the audience got to see more in depth to the person that Bennie Salazar is. The audience experienced all of Bennie’s triumph later in life because they saw him at his rock bottoms throughout his journey to get there. Seeing all of the different sides to Bennie’s personality made him a more relatable person, and his victory against time depicted a greater message that time is a goon that can be beat. Not all of the characters in the novel won the battle against the goon, and the fact that Jennifer Egan chose a character constantly mentioned to overcome the detriments of aging proves that ultimately time is a goon that can be defeated.