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Literature / The Moviegoer

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"What is the nature of the search? you ask. Really it is very simple; at least for a fellow like me. So simple that it is easily overlooked. The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life."

Published in 1961, The Moviegoer by Walker Percy is an existentialist novel about Binx, a humdrum stockbroker who drifts through life going to movies and dating girls.

It's notable for subverting a lot of tropes, and refuting Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life.

This novel contains examples of:

  • All Men Are Perverts: In Kate's salacious comic books, men are different kinds of perverts, from hulking brute to southern gentleman.
  • The Big Easy: Where Binx is from and the book takes place. Binx actually hates the French Quarter and the book averts most of the tropes expected from the setting. Largely it's used to show that "The South" is dying, and comes down on the side of 'it never really was that great'.
  • The Dandy: Binx meets one on the train to New Orleans, and points out exactly why he'll never be happy. Funnily enough, he is also a "moviegoer", which means he's an existentialist like Binx but is too caught up in feelings and finding the deeper meaning in things.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Averted; Binx is really ambivalent to anything resembling life goals and is all around ambitionless, he spends his time making money, going to the movies, and dating his secretaries. It's actually his family that thinks this must be true, and they more or less bully him into trying to get personal growth. The page quote is Binx's view on the subject.
  • The Everyman: Nothing sets Binx apart from the average man on the street, something he is totally okay with.
  • Foil: How Percy uses Binx to make social commentary.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Kate's demeanor is a toned-down version of this until we find out that she's a pill-popper, then she goes into Sad Clown.
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: Subverted. The one-week timeframe of the books is before, during and after the party, but Binx goes to a business trip while it's on and nothing comes from it.
  • Kissing Cousins: Binx and Kate, which almost gets him in trouble.
  • Phrase Catcher: Binx and his dad are repeatedly told they "should go into (medical) research".
  • Title Drop: Binx calls himself a moviegoer, and uses the phrase to describe his cousin and The Dandy. Both of them are in on "The Search".
  • Unbuilt Trope: Percy makes a lot of valid criticisms of The '60s before they actually got under way.
  • Where da White Women At?: Inverted; Kate tells Binx that she made a pass at their black butler, but he refused her.