A Visit from the Goon Squad Symbols and Motifs

Jennifer Egan

A Visit from the Goon Squad

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A Visit from the Goon Squad Symbols and Motifs

The Body

The body is the site of meaning and identity for individuals in A Visit from the Goon Squad. For Rhea and Jocelyn, blond hair is a genetic distinction that has social and cultural implications. Distinctions between natural hair color and obvious dye jobs reveal how characters use their bodies as sites of expression. Various characters have tattoos and scars, which communicate how they want to be seen in the world. In the final chapter, we read that the trend has moved away from tattoos and piercings altogether; thus, the absence of body markings becomes a statement in itself.

Through the relationships characters have with the marks on their bodies, we see the attempt to create distinctions between what is naturally occurring and what is constructed. The notion of identity is situated in the interplay between the two. Is the natural blonde somehow more authentic than the woman who has the financial means to appear natural? Identity is a composite of the character’s natural state and what the character chooses to communicate to the world by modifying their body.


Centered on the music industry, music comprises much of the narrative content of A Visit from the Goon Squad, primarily from the perspective of the listener rather than that of the songwriter. In “The Gold Cure,” Bennie has difficulty expressing his thoughts, but when he plays songs in the car with Sasha, he imagines that he is “confessing to her his disillusionment” (36). In “Great Rock and Roll Pauses,” Sasha’s son, Lincoln, attempts to communicate with his father by talking about the pauses in rock songs, a form of communication his father fails to understand. For both Bennie and Lincoln, music is not an act of creation, but rather a process of reappropriation. These characters are not writing music; instead they are using the music written by others as a means of devising their own forms of expression. 


In A Visit from the Goon Squad, silences and empty spaces are not negative quantities, but rather positive entities, containing story and character. The most pointed example of silence as a theme occurs in “Great…

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