Walker Percy

The Moviegoer

  • 46-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 32 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a former professor with multiple graduate degrees
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The Moviegoer Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 46-page guide for “The Moviegoer” by Walker Percy includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 32 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Loss, Survival and Resilience and Existential Angst, Alienation, and The Search for Authenticity.

Plot Summary

Walker Percy’s debut novel, The Moviegoer, was published in 1961 and won the 1962 National Book Award. The novel’s protagonist, Binx Bolling, is a young stockbroker living in a suburb of New Orleans. While struggling with the overwhelming ordinariness that characterizes his life, as well as the lives of most everyone he knows, Binx embarks on a search for meaning and authenticity against the chaos of Carnival and Mardi Gras. Over the course of a few days, Binx  searches his own soul, explores his family dynamics, and ruminates on what it means to be alive, all the while going to movies and watching television in an attempt to connect with humanity at large.

Some literary scholars compare the existential themes of The Moviegoer to Russian masterpieces that focus on the internal lives of their protagonists, while others suggest that The Moviegoer is one of the first works of American literature to examine what it means to be a suburban man living in post-war America. Binx himself is a war veteran, having survived a traumatizing injury during his time in the Korean War, and the psychological effects of his experiences play out in parallel to the life experiences of his cousin, Kate, who is troubled by thoughts of suicide and despair.

At the start of the novel, Binx Bolling is summoned to his aunt’s house for lunch, where he receives a customary, well-meaning lecture from his aunt about the direction in which his life ought to be heading. At this time, he sees his cousin, Kate, a woman unlike his secretaries, women whom Binx often attempts to seduce in an attempt to experience meaningful connection. New Orleans is in the throes of Carnival as Mardi Gras approaches, and the festive atmosphere of the city is in direct contrast to the grim nature of the family’s conversations around Kate’s declining mental health. As the novel progresses, Binx’s instability becomes more and more apparent, but somehow, he and Kate find a kind of comfort and safety in one another that the rest of their family finds difficult to understand.

The Moviegoer is a novel in four parts. Structurally, the novel concentrates on the events of only a few days, but Binx’s narrative style weaves memories and descriptions in and around his confessions and complaints, loading the quotidian events of the days with meaning and emotion. Binx is as earnest and honest as he can be in his storytelling, and his revelations surprise himself as much as they surprise his family and the reader. Rather than disorienting the reader with confusing detail, Binx’s omissions and his tendency to perseverate on matters that only seem small make for a rich reading experience. In fact, Binx’s unreliable narration adds as much soulfulness to his story as the actual events he depicts, all the while reminding the reader that the ordinary lives of individuals are rarely as ordinary as they seem.

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Part 1