Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Moviegoer

One afternoon, while listening attentively to a radio program, I heard the host tell of how a holy man once described the human experience – a description that stuck with him over the years. This holy man told him that life was similar to walking down a long corridor, with distractions on the left and on the right. Over here is a religion, and over here is a novel. Over here is a guitar, and over here is a beautiful woman. Over here is a song, and over here is a sexual experience. Over here is a political system, and over here is a sunset, and so on and so forth. The whole point is to experience these things, but not to get too fixated on one certain thing, or else one would not make it to the end of the corridor. Upon reading The Moviegoer by Walker Percy, I feel that the protagonist, Binx Bolling, would have learned more from this transmission, rather than the love/hate relationship he had with the radio program This I Believe in

I also find it odd that Binx says that he has “never analyzed a thing in his life,” for throughout the whole novel, he was analyzing nothing but his life – relating everything he saw: all the people, everything in the town, and every social situation, to some character or scene that he had seen in a movie. He is attempting to reconcile the doldrums of life by finding the hidden meanings behind all things – a man on a search for… something. Call it “Greener Grass Syndrome” or what have you, he knows not what he needs, only that he needs it.

However, there is a progression up the rungs of Kierkegaard’s existential ladder. At the beginning of the novel, Binx was a model citizen by the world’s standards. He was solely fixated on obtaining money and having flings with his secretaries – entranced with giving aesthetic purpose to his life, which became far too dull and the malaise always set in. Toward the end of the novel though, Binx shows signs of climbing up a rung to the ethical way of living. Through the scenes in the Epilogue, on the day that Lonnie dies, not only the way he treats his step-siblings, but also the way he treats Kate, show that he is beginning to care for others rather than himself. He helps Kate with her problems by giving her meaning to her own life. By telling her exactly what to do and where to go, she is able to not bother with her big search, a search Binx himself was on, but rather she has easier, smaller searches. Instead of finding meaning for every minor detail of life, she can simply find some government documents for Binx from a Mr. Klostermann, etc.

This is something they both desperately need. Now Binx and Kate can walk down the corridor of life together, helping each other along the way – through the periods of malaise, until the next big accident can liven things up a bit. Binx does not achieve the highest level of Kierkegaard’s way of living, but he shows definite improvement in his situation.


  1. Your observation of how Binx changes and becomes an individual not so fixated on his own problems but now showing love to those around him (Kate & his step siblings) is quite good. I really had not thought of that or seen it while reading. But at the end it is very clear that he has made quite a positive transformation. Also I had thought that perhaps he had decided to accept the Malaise, however instead of just accepting it he has found someone to endure it with.

    Over all I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on the book! You write very well.

  2. Jacob,

    I completely agree with your analysis of Binx's state as he walks his corridor. It is true that what we all have in common is the that inevitably distractions will come. They may serve various purposes in our lives. Perhaps we are to grab and sack one here and there. But, ultimately we are to press on in order to make our destination, wherever that may be.

    Every pastime Binx enjoys is passive and fails to extend beyond the surface. For example, he loves watching narratives as opposed to creating them (his life is a narrative within itself). Throughout the novel, he indulges in sex and labels it “love” as opposed to committing himself to the selfless, monogamous, care of another. He loves money above all - and while wealth has its place - it cannot redeem him or lead him to the meaning he seeks. For the most part, his relationships are shallow. He gives very little of himself. I feel somewhere along the way, he was supposed to pocket a novel, store a horizon or poem, and keep moving. Change something. Grow from something. But, he is stagnate. He talks a great deal and I agree that he analyzes a great deal. But, as Pope says in the Essay of Man, the greatest judge of man is man (himself).

    I agree completely.