A Visit from the Goon Squad Themes

Jennifer Egan

A Visit from the Goon Squad

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A Visit from the Goon Squad Themes


At different points in A Visit from the Goon Squad, both Scotty and Bosco say, “Time’s the goon” (127; 332). The idea of time as a goon suggests that time is destructive, but also potentially protective. Time is a cause of both anxiety and hope, and its effects are seen on people, and also on objects and on culture.

As a source of anxiety, time is manifested in the novel through decaying objects, aging bodies, and a general sense of nostalgia that runs throughout the stories. Bennie takes gold flakes in his coffee to counteract the effects of aging on his body, while Sasha lies about her age in her dating profile. Both Lou Kline and Bennie Salazar at different times suffer professionally when they resist changing trends in their industry. In the later chapters, which are set in the future, we see a cultural movement away from the art of written prose, made most pointed in Alison’s textbook directions to favor graphics over large blocks of text. The fact that we, as readers, experience this information in graphic format, when we have come to expect conventional prose, evokes in us that sense of anxiety experienced by characters in the novel.

As a source of hope, Goon Squad portrays time as a vehicle for healing and renewal. Within a number of the stories, the narrator shifts into a future mode in order to predict what will happen to the characters later in life. As Ted Hollander sits with Sasha in the squalor of her palazzo, the narrator tells us that she will one day be “like anyone” (233), with a family and a relatively stable home life. Lulu, who features prominently in the last chapter of the novel, first appears in a story set long before her birth, as in “Safari” we read that the grandson of a warrior the Americans meet in Kenya “will marry an American named Lulu and remain in New York, where he’ll invent a scanning device that becomes standard issue for crowd security” (62). In this earlier story, the narrator introduces Lulu, and also predicts the…

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