Bright Lights, Big City Themes


Mclnerney's generic "you" character embodies the theme of escapism in a modern-style flight from self-discovery. Through the slow debilitating effects of cocaine addiction, a nameless narrator runs from the pain of an unsatisfying existence and hides in the darkness of drug-dulled insensitivity.

At the beginning of the novel, this sadly comic character is placidly "high" on cocaine and hidden in the shadows of a dimly lit nightclub. It is nearly dawn and he is engaged in blurry conversation with a bald barhopper. When daylight and its related sobriety threatens to appear, he quickly dons his Ray Ban sunglasses and desperately searches for one more white powder fix. Throughout the story, he repeats this drug and darkness pattern in order to allay the haunting guilt associated with a broken marriage and a dying mother. This drug-related veil also helps him at his work, where he wrestles with the boredom of an unchallenging career.

At the end of the novel, this cocaine fog is finally burned away by the bright morning sunlight and he awakens in a state of clear-eyed temperance. In a symbolic gesture, he willingly trades his sunglasses for a piece of fresh-baked bread, similar to the kind his mother once made for him. He is thus reborn, and his flight has ended. But regaining his former instincts and identity will involve learning "everything all over again."

(The entire section is 227 words.)