Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 842
Binx Bolling is on a search—a quest for the meaning of life in modern America. He often visits his great-aunt Emily’s home for lunch, where he talks to her about the cosmic importance of the lives of people they know. She wants him to go to medical school, but he frequents movies and watches television as a way of distracting himself from domestic realities and from personal involvement with those around him. He is a stockbroker who has affairs with his various secretaries.
At one of Binx’s luncheons with his great-aunt, she elicits his help in warding off a “nervous break-down” that is evidently forthcoming for his distant cousin, Kate Cutrer. Aunt Emily has found Kate’s hidden bottles of whiskey and sodium pentobarbital. Binx agrees to help; that is, he agrees to give Kate attention and keep her distracted. At a subsequent lunch, Walter Wade shows up to talk football and make preparations for Mardi Gras with Uncle Jules. Walter, an old fraternity brother of Binx, and Kate are engaged to marry.
Binx and Kate decide to watch the Mardi Gras parade together, in which they see Walter and after which they attend a movie. Slowly, over time, they fall in love with each other, and Kate cancels her engagement to Walter. Binx is attracted to his new secretary, Sharon Kincaid, and spends time with her. He eventually realizes, however, that it is Kate whom he really wants. It is revealed, in turn, that Sharon is in love with another man.
When Binx proposes marriage to Kate, she delays an answer. At the office the next morning, a Saturday, he invites Sharon to go swimming with him and to have a “date” for the day. She accepts, and they have a minor car accident. They exchange platitudes of love at the picnic on the beach. Binx takes Sharon to meet his mother and other family members; then, predictably, they go to yet another movie.
After going to church with his mother, Binx returns to the home of his aunt Emily, where he learns that Kate, that very morning, has attempted suicide. Emily discovered Kate before she died and had telephoned for a doctor, who came to the house and pumped the whiskey and pentobarbital from her stomach. Emily and Binx discuss what is to be done about Kate, with nothing being resolved. Binx then converses with Kate herself, but toward no immediate end. Even though both have a great understanding of each other, this understanding is self-defeating. Binx cannot lie and tells her that life has meaning, for he had found none for himself.
Binx is scheduled to make a business trip to Chicago. At the last moment he decides to take Kate with him, but he does not inform Emily. They travel by train, and both seem to be doing fine with each other and with themselves. The trip is somewhat spoiled for Kate because they discover another couple on the train whom they knew. Binx and Kate discuss the meaning of life and death and their own roles in the universe. Binx returns persistently to thoughts about his search for meaning in life. They make numerous references to movies. They conclude little of importance. Kate mutters, “Losing hope is not so bad. There’s something worse: losing hope and hiding it from...
(The entire section contains 842 words.)
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