A Visit From the Goon Squad

by Jennifer Egan

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What challenges do female characters face in Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad?

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Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad tells thirteen separate, but interconnected stories about several characters who all share experiences with a record company executive named Bennie Salazar. The through-line of these stories is the dark side of the rock music industry. As such, the book's central themes are aging and the loss of innocence.

The challenges that the female characters, in particular, go through include mental illness (exemplified by Sasha's kleptomania in "Found Objects" and Kitty's implied PTSD in "Forty Minute Lunch"); the misogynistic treatment of women as expendable (illustrated by the various love affairs, entanglements, and subsequent break-ups and divorces among the members of The Flaming Dildos, as well as the band's utilization of their friend Jocelyn's relationship with Lou, a music producer, as leverage to further their own careers); power dynamics (evidenced by Lou, a middle-aged man, taking advantage of Jocelyn as a teenager in "Ask Me If I Care," as well as by women like Dolly in "Selling the General" being made to feel as though compromising their values for wealth and fame is necessary); and sexual assault (Kitty in "Forty Minute Lunch").

In addition to aging and loss of innocence, the other themes of the book include the ephemeral nature of fame and the pitfalls of a materialistic definition of happiness. A recurring motif in these stories is the body as a site of self-expression and self-definition. Characters are often defined by the color of their hair (whether natural or dyed), the presence or absence of tattoos, piercings, and scars, etc.

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