Thursday, November 6, 2014

Lou: sleazy or sad? ...or both?

The scattered structure of A Visit From the Goon Squad means that the reader is constantly learning new things about characters that may change how they perceive them. The best example of this is Lou, who at first seems sleazy, threatening and morally reprehensible, because that is how Rhea sees him. And because Rhea narrates the chapter in which Lou is introduced, the reader's opinion is heavily influenced by hers. This means the reader, like Rhea, starts off intimidated by and suspicious of Lou. He seems to be a figure of great power, because to Rhea, he is - he is older, wealthy (it seems), and respected by his associates, not to mention his almost total control over Rhea's best friend Jocelyn. Rhea views Jocelyn as superior to herself, and therefore, seeing Jocelyn so completely cowed by Lou greatly increases Rhea's fear of him.

However, in the chapter "Safari", the reader sees further into Lou's character, and discovers that he is neither as all-powerful nor as intentionally evil as he first seemed. He is still by no means respectable, but our fear of him shifts to pity (not sympathy, which implies agreement with his character and actions). The third-person omniscient narrative style in "Safari" allows the reader, unbiased by any character's personal perspective, to see just what a sad, pathetic figure Lou actually is. In a later chapter, when Rhea and Jocelyn return to visit Lou on his deathbed, her fear of him has shifted to pity and disgust. The reader feels sorry for Lou, but does not agree with him, and never did. Seeing him from the outside and hearing his own thoughts in "Safari" allows the reader to see the truth about him - that is, he is petty and weak, crafting an image of masculinity and invincibility, while secretly clinging to youth and his own misguided ideas about what makes "a man". He was never the fast-living, fearless badboy that Rhea - and the reader - first believed.


  1. I think this is interesting, because my opinion of Lou never changed. I thought exactly the same of him at the beginning as I did at the end. Sort of interesting how we both had different reactions to the same character, even if those reactions were pretty similar...

  2. I agree with this. I think that I still do not have a true opinion of Lou because of the contrast with each chapter. There are moments where I think that I like his character but so many aspects of his personality make me not like him.