Sasha's Development in A Visit from the Goon Squad
Jennifer Egan wrote her novel (or collection of short stories) A Visit from the Goon Squad with little chronological order. Other authors have done this with their books, such as Gabriel Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude, and it is clear that they have a purpose in doing so.
Egan’s purpose was to give the reader perspective on the development of the anchoring characters’ lives, and what caused their lives to change the ways they did. When Sasha is first introduced, she is in her mid-thirties. Later in the novel the reader learns about her life before her thirties. As the novel closes, Egan tells of Sasha’s life after the opening chapter. Throughout the novel Egan references other important moments in Sasha’s life which clearly correlate towards her character later on in the novel. Egan uses the positive progression of Sasha’s life to demonstrate her opinions on time in the novel.
When the reader first meets Sasha, she is on a date in a fancy restaurant. Through thorough recapping and analysis of Sasha’s thoughts, we learn that she is a kleptomaniac, and has been for years. She talks about the “five sets of keys, fourteen pairs of sunglasses, a child’s striped scarf, binoculars, a cheese grater, a pocketknife, twenty-eight bars of soap, and eighty-five pens” (Egan 8) she had stolen, and then explains that she was not tempted to steal from stores anymore; only from people. Sasha is in the bathroom of the restaurant and in an intellectual argument with herself over whether or not to take a wallet belonging to a woman in one of the stalls. “That fat, tender wallet, offering itself to her hand—it seemed so dull, so life-as-usual to just leave it there rather than seize the moment, accept the challenge, take the leap…” (8). The reader can infer clearly that Sasha’s conditions are the sum of her past experiences, and are not preferable.
Through progression of the novel, minor references are made to Sasha’s upbringing and what led her to become who she is. The reader learns from the next reference that Sasha’s father deserted her family when she was only six years old. Later, a reference is made to when she was five and her parents were fighting at the family’s summer house. Small allusions like these help the reader to learn more about Sasha’s character and what led her to be the way she is. The next chapter that focuses heavily on Sasha is much later in the book.
It takes place when she is a 20-year-old freshman in college living in New York. The reader learns a lot about Sasha’s past from this chapter, and learns that she is paranoid. In high school, back in LA, she’d run away with the drummer for a band you’d never heard of, left the country, and traveled alone in Europe and Asia—never even graduated. Now, a freshman, she was almost twenty-one. Her stepfather had pulled every string to get her in here. Last week, he’d told her he was hiring a detective to make sure she “toed the line” on her own in New York.
“Someone could be watching me right now,” she said, looking across the square crowded with kids who all seemed to know one another. “I feel like someone is.” (155) In this chapter the reader also learns that she started shoplifting when she was 13. She and her friends would compete to see who could steal the most from a store, “but it was different for Sasha—it made her whole body glow” (156). Another character, Rob, indicates that Sasha “was better now, [and] hadn’t stolen anything in two years” (156). She is later diagnosed as a kleptomaniac, indicating Rob was incorrect and that she was not better.
She lapses in and out of stealing as her life becomes better or worse. The next chapter about Sasha focuses on her life further down the road. It is from the perspective of her daughter, Alison, and is in the form of a Powerpoint that Alison wrote. From this chapter the reader learns that Sasha now lives in California with her husband and two children. Now she uses the stolen items accumulated over time, or found items, to make collages. She explains to her daughter that the items she uses are “precious because they’re casual and meaningless” (220).
Sasha is now settled down with her family and no longer steals. She made a hobby of making art with her stolen items, instead of accumulating more, and now uses that as a creative outlet. Sasha is in a better place in this chapter than she was at any other point described in the novel. As Egan wrote A Visit from the Goon Squad, she jumped around on a long and scattered timeline. At the time of Sasha’s introduction to the plot, she was an aging kleptomaniac who had recently been fired by her boss and was hoping to get her life back on track soon by regaining interest in music, her friends, and her goals.
Then the reader learns of the circumstances Sasha encountered to get to where she was: being a vagrant hooker and thief with divorced parents and little direction in her life. Lastly the reader learns of how she overcame the troubles in her life, made the right choices, and lived happily in the California desert. Sasha’s life improved over time, and Egan demonstrates this through unordered analysis of impacts on her life’s growth and progression over the course of time.