About the Book

Book Protagonist: Sasha Grady Blake
Publication Date: 2010
Genre: Coming of Age

Themes and Analysis

A Visit from the Goon Squad

By Jennifer Egan

In ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad,’ Jennifer Egan tries to explore the theme of time and how quickly it can flash before our eyes, often leaving us reminiscing about some good memories from the past or regretting having lived less than we planned to.

Throughout the book, readers will notice how time takes its toll on the majority of the leading characters – starting with the most frontal ones in Sasha Grady Blake and Bennie Salazar but also extending to Lou, Bosco, Jocelyn, Mindy, and the others. As the story progresses, more and more themes of aging, death, unrequited love, technology, and mental health, among others play out. This article will analyze the frontal themes from Jennifer Egan’s ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ and discuss the key moments, writing style, figurative expressions, and symbols therein.

A Visit from the Goon Squad Themes

Time Passage

More than just a theme but also a sort of character, time is arguably the biggest villain out to hunt all the characters in Jennifer Egan’s ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad.’ From Sasha to Bennie – stretching down across to Scotty, Jocelyn, and all the other characters, the readers will find these characters, at one point or the other, lashing out and venting their frustrations on either the fact that time came flying past their hay days too quickly, or that it took a complete detour on them. 

Mental Health 

The issue of mental health among the youth is another vital thematic focus of Jennifer Egan her book, ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad.’ These issues seem to come as a direct or indirect consequence of the traumas of the time theme. 

Nearly all the characters battle with mental health issues in their own time. Sasha struggles with kleptomania – while Bennie battles over impotence, loss of confidence, and self-esteem. Some – like Jocelyn – suffer devastating heartbeats, while others like Rob become self-destructive and lose their lives as a result.


Aging and Death 

Aging, and eventually death, is the reason ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ characters have shared malice with the time character – as these themes are the strongest, most imposing, and most fearful instruments it has on humans. After wasting a significant part of her youth living by the edge as a punk rocker, she comes to the realization that she hasn’t really achieved any meaningful thing in her life, and age is not on her side. 

Once this happens, she begins planning the remainder of her life for the better, first by going back to school, then seeing a therapist, and so on. A similar thing happens with all the other characters.

Infatuation, Love, and Unrequited Love 

Incidental themes from the novel, these trios are typical for every book, film, or work of art that focuses on young adults. ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ isn’t different, as there’s no shortage of drama on these three fronts. 

In the first three chapters, we see how Bennie and his clique are caught up in a bizarre love (or infatuation?) circle. Rhea wants Bennie, who wants Alice, who wants Scotty wants Jocelyn, who wants Lou. None seems to be loving another who loves them back, and this unrequited love, and hits devastatingly more on the character Jocelyn (and a bit on Rhea), who becomes miserable over Lou’s games. Thankfully she realizes later and attempts to fix her life. 

New Media Technology 

Technology, particularly social media, is at the center of things in ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad.’ This is written all over Part B, chapter 13 of the book, when Alex and Lulu work with Bennie to promote Scotty as a music brand to the world, and people actually bought it even with they not having prior knowledge of Scotty’s work or personality.


The Music Industry 

The entire narrative of ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ is built around the music industry. All the characters know or have something to do with someone who knows about music, more specifically, punk rock music. As kids from the 70s, Bennie and his friends vibe to the trendy punk rock music of the era. However, for Bennie, it becomes much more than just a vibe but a passion; that’s why unlike the others, he pursues it as a career – learning everything about it: the best, the production, the music. 

While the whole plot revolves around this genre of music, Bennie and his mentor Lou Kline seem to be the only two people who run a successful business out of it, selling the talents of people like Scotty and Bosco. 

Key Moments in A Visit from the Goon Squad

  1. Sasha visits her therapist and recalls stealing a woman’s purse – and later – Alex’s wallet. 
  2. Bennie goes to watch his band’s indoor performance – accompanied by Sasha and his son Christopher. 
  3. It’s the 1970s, seventeen-year-olds Rhea and Jocelyn convince Lou to come to watch Bennie and his band – ‘The Flaming Dildos‘ – perform. 
  4. Lou goes on a vacation on safari – accompanied by his family and girlfriend Mindy. 
  5. Many years later, Lou is old, sick, and dying and is visited by old friends Rhea and Jocelyn (now forty-three-year-olds). 
  6. Scott, who is leading a reclusive life as a lowlife janitor after his divorce and hiatus from music, visits old friend Bennie.
  7. Bennie moves to the affluent Crandale neighborhood with his wife, Stephanie, but they struggle to fit in.
  8. PR guru Dolly Peale, after her fall from fame, tries to rejuvenate her career by selling the genocidal General. 
  9. Stephanie’s brother Jules Jones publishes his magazine piece about the assault incident with Kitty Jackson.
  10. Rob, Sasha and Drew’s friend drowns in the East River following a fit of mental health issues. 
  11. Sasha’s Uncle Ted Holland tracks Sasha to Italy and convinces her to come home. 
  12. Allison, Sasha’s daughter, shares her family experiences, her brother Lincoln’s struggle with autism, and her defeatist inclination. 
  13. Alex and Lulu help Bennie promote Scotty’s concert on social media. The show is a success, and they make history together. 

Style and Tone 

Jennifer Egan’s writing style goes in tandem with her postmodernism inclination. She typically utilizes nonlinear plot-style narrative to lend as many eyes to her readers so that her work goes beyond being a mere subjective read but also a multi-perspective experience.

Her book, ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ is a perfect depiction of just how composite the author’s writing can be. In this book made up of thirteen chapters – cut in parts A and B, like a phonograph disk, the readers will experience an abundant flush of backstories and foreshadowing, diverse points of view (in the first, second, and third person), and thirteen complete, single story knotted together at their tail end. 

In terms of tone and mood of ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad,’ there are over a dozen of them extractible, and this is because every story is told by different characters based on their distinct mental and emotional state. However, the common tone and mood found in the book are mostly satirical and include; expressions of regret, shame, disappointment, failure, and hope.

Figurative Languages

Egan’s use of figurative language in ‘A Visit from the Goon Sqaud’ is thorough and starts well within the book’s title – which is a metaphor for being a merciless bully and tormentor of man. 

Beyond the use of metaphors, there is also a wide usage of devices like satire, allusion, simile, personification, foreshadowing, and so on. 

Analysis of Symbols in A Visit from the Goon Squad

Symbolism plays a major in Jennifer Egan’s ‘A Visit from the Goon Sqaud’ and so can be found at various important events of the book. Some of the most prominent ones have been explained.


Music is the heart of Egan’s ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ and it symbolizes an instrument of unity for all the characters across the different stories. Despite its changing nature, it still stands as the connector between Bennie and Sasha’s generation to that of Lulu and Alison’s. 


This instrument, as seen deployed at strategic intervals by Egan, connotes different meanings at different points in the book. Sometimes it presents a glimmer of hope for what is to come – like in Ted and Sasha’s scene in her Italy apartment, while other times, it represents an event filled with dread and terror – like in the chapter where Sasha’s friend Rob dies. 


Water’s symbolic depiction in ‘A Visit from the Goon Sqaud’ is unconventional – meaning that it is painted as harmful and destructive as opposed to the conventional literary connotation of being the source of life and tranquility. Rob drowns in the East River while swimming with Drew, Jocelyn visualizes drowning Lou when she and Rhea visit, and so on.


In ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad,’ pauses – especially in punk rock music – underpin the activities of time in relation to the characters throughout the book. From point to point, pauses progression of time in the life of these characters – detailing how much things have changed over time. 


What are the primary themes in ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ by Jennifer Egan?

The story of ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad communicates lessons through several vital themes: from themes of mental health to time passage, and technology use in the punk music industry. 

What figurative element is prevalent in ‘Goon Squad’?

Among a plethora of figurative elements used, the metaphor seems quite prevalent throughout the book and even exists in the book’s title to start with. 

What narrative technique does Egan use in ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’?

Egan uses multiple narrative styles for the book, ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad.’ Across the book’s thirteen chapters, the reader can find the first, second, and third-person perspectives. 

What does sunset symbolize in ‘Goon Squad’?

Sunset in ‘Goon Squad’ is like a gate that opens up a little of what is to come; sometimes it’s hopeful and optimistic, and other times it’s hopeless and grim. 

Victor Onuorah
About Victor Onuorah
Victor is as much a prolific writer as he is an avid reader. With a degree in Journalism, he goes around scouring literary storehouses and archives; picking up, dusting the dirt off, and leaving clean even the most crooked pieces of literature all with the skill of analysis.
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