A Visit from the Goon Squad

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Connection, Disconnection, and Technology Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Time and Memory Theme Icon
Identity, Authenticity, and Meaning Theme Icon
Connection, Disconnection, and Technology Theme Icon
Fame, Art, and Popular Culture Theme Icon
Ruin and Redemption  Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Visit from the Goon Squad, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Connection, Disconnection, and Technology Theme Icon

The theme of Connection and Disconnection is finely balanced in Egan’s novel. Structurally, the novel highlights the way in which the characters’ lives are woven together. Characters from one story emerge in later stories as background characters, and background characters in some stories take center stage at other points in the novel. For example, the story “Ask Me if I Care” is narrated by Rhea and includes Jocelyn as a side character. Later in the novel, in the story “You (Plural)”, the roles switch, and we receive Jocelyn’s narration with Rhea as the sidekick. The ways in which these characters’ lives are connected, and the ways in which these connections become traumatic for these characters, comes through the juxtaposition of these two stories. Though the novel’s stories depict the ways in which the characters’ lives are interconnected, the novel’s characters often struggle with a feeling of disconnection from self, family, and community. One striking example is the story “Out of Body,” which is told by a depressed college student, Rob, who has recently attempted suicide. The second-person narrative technique depicts the sense of disconnection Rob feels from himself. Instead of referring to himself with “I” he refers to himself as “you.” Interestingly, by using the pronoun “you” he also attempts to put the reader in his place, which can be read as a reach towards connection.

The idea of connectedness is also explored through the role of technology in the lives of the characters. The novel examines the ways in which technology is potentially leading to a greater sense of both connection and disconnection in our culture. In “Pure Language,” Alex takes a job with Bennie doing Social Network Marketing, but he is concerned about sharing his new job with his wife because of the stigma attached to this form of marketing. Tension also develops in the story around Alex’s daughter, who is a toddler and desires to play with Alex’s phone. In this way, technology serves as an issue that leads to disconnection between Alex and his wife. At the end of the story, however, Alex uses his phone to locate his wife and daughter in the crowd, and texts her, leading to a moment of connection.

Though the novel depicts many characters that feel isolated, the narrative ends with a gesture toward hope. In the final moments of the novel, characters come together to watch Scotty Hausman perform live in New York City. The moment is one of deep connection for the characters present at the concert. Whether through the use of technology or the communal act of experiencing live music, the novel maintains its hope for a future where humans find community and connection.

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Connection, Disconnection, and Technology ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Connection, Disconnection, and Technology appears in each Chapter of A Visit from the Goon Squad. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Connection, Disconnection, and Technology Quotes in A Visit from the Goon Squad

Below you will find the important quotes in A Visit from the Goon Squad related to the theme of Connection, Disconnection, and Technology.
Chapter 1 Quotes

[Coz] was trying to get Sasha to use that word, which was harder to avoid in the case of a wallet than with a lot of the things she'd lifted over the past year, when her condition (as Coz referred to it) had begun to accelerate: five sets of keys, fourteen pairs of sunglasses, a child's striped scarf…Sasha no longer took anything from stores—their cold, inert goods didn't tempt her. Only from people.

Related Characters: Sasha Blake (speaker), Coz
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

Sasha’s decision to pursue therapy with Coz is an attempt to overcome her addiction to stealing, which has resulted in the loss of her job with Bennie Salazar. In a deeper sense, however, her stealing signifies an attempt to find connection and establish an authentic identity. Stealing allows Sasha to feel connected to others through possessing objects that are close to them, but also provides the opportunity to explore the issue of identity. The objects she chooses to steal—keys, sunglasses, and especially the child’s striped scarf—have metaphorical significance as they are related to the victim’s identity. For example, keys open doors that reveal people’s private lives, and the scarf is connected to the idea of childhood and innocence.

In therapy, Coz attempts to get Sasha to use the word “steal” or “stealing” because it speaks to the nature of her addiction in a more authentic way than a euphemistic word like “lifting.” By confronting the authentic reality of her ruinous actions, Coz believes Sasha will be able to take responsibility and connect to her identity in a more authentic way. Try as he might, however, Sasha does not find the authenticity she desires until the end of the novel.


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She could tell that [Alex] was in excellent shape, not from going to the gym but from being young enough that his body was still imprinted with whatever sports he'd played in high school and college. Sasha, who was thirty-five, had passed that point. Still, not even Coz knew her real age. The closest anyone had come to guessing it was thirty-one, and most put her in her twenties. She worked out daily and avoided the sun. Her online profiles all listed her as twenty-eight.

Related Characters: Sasha Blake (speaker), Coz
Related Symbols: The Sun, The Body and Appearance
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

Scenes of Sasha’s date with Alex are interwoven with her therapy session with Coz, and they work together to establish Sasha’s character and explore her insecurity about aging and her struggle with authenticity. In the novel, the body is a symbol that depicts the often-ruinous impact of time. Likewise, the sun symbolically speaks to the passage of time. Both symbols then work to illuminate Sasha’s character in this quote.

Sasha’s attention to Alex’s body speaks both to her insecurity about her own age and her understanding that the body reflects the impact of time. Alex has not been subjected to the ruinous effects of time yet, the way Sasha has. Sasha struggles to come to terms with the fact that she is aging—she avoids the sun (which can make people get wrinkles earlier, but in the novel also generally represents passing time) and keeps a gym routine in an attempt to combat aging. Her online profiles and lies to Coz further depict her insecurity and her inability to be authentic even with those closest to her. Likewise, the fact that her online profiles give her the capacity to deceive others also speaks to the way in which technology can serve as force of disconnection in the lives of the novel’s characters.

"I'm sorry," Sasha said quickly. "It’s a problem I have."
The woman opened the wallet. Her physical relief at having it back coursed through Sasha in a warm rush, as if their bodies had fused.
“Everything's there, I swear," she said. "I didn't even open it. It's this problem I have, but I'm getting help. I just—please don't tell. I'm hanging on by a thread."
The woman glanced up, her soft brown eyes moving over Sasha's face. What did she see? Sasha wished that she could turn and peer in the mirror again, as if something about herself might at last be revealed—some lost thing. But she didn't turn. She held still and let the woman look. It struck her that the woman was close to her own age—her real age. She probably had children at home.

Related Characters: Sasha Blake (speaker)
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, the woman who owns the wallet Sasha stole earlier in the story confronts Sasha. As the therapy session sections of this chapter show, Sasha struggles to admit her addiction to stealing, but in this moment, she is forced to confront her addiction, an undesirable component of her true identity.

Here Sasha not only sees this undesirable part of herself with clarity, but another person also sees her with depth, which creates a feeling of connection within Sasha. Sasha, however, still wonders who she truly is, and thus is immediately curious about what else the woman sees in her—she wants to find something true, something perhaps “lost,” in the reflection of the woman’s eyes in the mirror (an image with several layers of disconnection). The moment ends with Sasha returning to her insecurity around her age and the misguided life she has lived. Her thought that the woman is her age and has children at home shows the distinction between where Sasha thinks she should be in her life, and where she actually stands.

Chapter 2 Quotes

Then the sisters began to sing. Oh, the raw, almost threadbare sound of their voices mixed with the clash of instruments—these sensations met with a faculty deeper in Bennie than judgment or even pleasure; they communed directly with his body…And here was his first erection in months…He seized the cowbell and stick and began whacking at it with zealous blows. He felt the music in his mouth, his ears, his ribs—or was that his own pulse? He was on fire!

Related Characters: Bennie Salazar (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Body and Appearance
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene Bennie has gone to visit a sister duo called “Stop/Go,” which he long ago signed to his record label. In the past, Bennie has maintained his identity as a powerful record executive by signing successful bands, but “Stop/Go” has failed to produce a record since he signed them, causing doubt in his identity and ruin in his career. Bennie, however, remains a purist when it comes to music, and as the novel progresses, it becomes clear that he cares more about the quality of the music than the amount of records sold.

In this scene, Bennie connects authentically with the music, which creates a sense of connection to himself (his body) and those around him. This connection is shown through his collaboration in the music making, and also through his erection. Because his sexual impotency is connected to his impotency in his life and career, this moment of connection with the art of music making is momentarily redemptive for Bennie.

Chapter 4 Quotes

"Women are cunts," his father says. "That's why.”

"They are not—" He can't make himself repeat the word.
"They are," Lou says tightly. "Pretty soon you'll know it for sure."
Rolph turns away from his father. There is nowhere to go, so he jumps into the sea and begins slowly paddling back toward shore. The sun is low, the water choppy and full of shadows. Rolph imagines sharks just under his feet, but he doesn't turn or look back.

Related Characters: Lou Kline (speaker), Rolph
Related Symbols: The Sun, Water
Page Number: 78-79
Explanation and Analysis:

The connection and disconnection between Rolph and his father Lou is highlighted in this chapter. Rolph, a naïve young boy, admires his father, despite his father’s ruinous self-centeredness and misogynistic views. Until this point, Rolph accepts his father’s views as truth. But when Rolph reveals that Mindy has cheated on Lou, Lou reacts by calling her a “cunt,” which reveals the depth of his hatred toward women—a fundamental component of his identity.

In this moment, then, Rolph intuits the destructiveness of Lou’s views, and rejects them. This rejection marks the commencement of his journey toward the development of his own identity independent of his father’s. The fact that the sun is setting symbolically marks the end of their connection as father and son, and the menacing nature of the water speaks to the ruin Lou has created with his views, and the more adult world Rolph is entering in disconnecting from his father.

[Charlie] takes hold of his hands. As they move together, Rolph feels his self-consciousness miraculously fade, as if he is growing up right there on the dance floor, becoming a boy who dances with girls like his sister. Charlie feels it, too. In fact, this particular memory is one she'll return to again and again, for the rest of her life, long after Rolph has shot himself in the head in their father's house at twenty-eight: her brother as a boy, hair slicked flat, eyes sparkling, shyly learning to dance.

Related Characters: Charlene (Charlie) (speaker), Rolph (speaker)
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

Throughout this story Charlie and Rolph have struggled to bond, but in this final moment of the story they find connection on the dance floor. For most of the story Rolph has identified with his father, but after a falling-out over Lou’s vicious misogyny, Rolph disconnects from his father and begins establishing his own authentic identity independent of Lou. Rolph feels this process toward his own authentic identity physically, which is depicted in the fading of his self-consciousness as he dances with Charlie.

The crucial flash-forward in this moment, however, counters the sense of redemption present in this scene. Rolph feels as though he is coming into his own identity, but his father’s ruinous views and behavior will have a lasting effect on him, and ultimately play a part in his decision to end his own life. The past undoubtedly impacts these characters, shaping who they become in the future—another example of the often-ruinous force of time on their lives. Memory, however, serves as a respite for the pain of the present (in the flash-forward) for Charlie. In light of the tragedies in her life, Charlie finds solace in the memory of this moment of pure connection.

Chapter 7 Quotes

Stephanie and Bennie had lived in Crandale a year before they were invited to a party. It wasn't a place that warmed easily to strangers…It wore on Stephanie more than she'd expected, dropping off Chris for kindergarten, waving or smiling at some blond mother releasing blond progeny from her SUV or Hummer, and getting back a pinched, quizzical smile whose translation seemed to be: Who are you again? How could they not know, after months of daily mutual sightings? They were snobs or idiots or both, Stephanie told herself, yet she was inexplicably crushed by their coldness.

Related Characters: Stephanie (speaker), Bennie Salazar
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

After achieving incredible success in the music business, Bennie and Stephanie move to Crandale, a wealthy and exclusive community outside of New York City. Bennie hopes that moving to the community will allow him to assume the identity of a typically successful American man, but both Bennie and Stephanie feel disconnected and inauthentic in the new community.

The difference between the Crandale community and the community the couple left in New York City creates an identity crisis in Stephanie. She both judges the women of Crandale and desperately wants their acceptance. This conflicting desire to both separate herself from and be accepted by the other woman echoes her struggle with authenticity within her own identity.

The topic was the presence of Al Qaeda in the New York area. Operatives were present, Bill confided, especially in the outer boroughs, possibly in communication with one another (Stephanie noticed Clay's pale eyebrows suddenly lift, and his head gave a single odd jerk, as if he had water in one ear), but the question was: how strong a link did they have to the mother ship—here Bill laughed—because any kook with a grudge could call himself Al Qaeda, but if he lacked money, training, backup (Clay gave another quick head shake, then flicked his eyes at Bennie, to his right), it made no sense to allocate resources…

Related Characters: Stephanie (speaker), Bennie Salazar
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Stephanie and Bennie are at a party with members of the Crandale Community. Over time, they have begun to make some connections in Crandale and are invited to parties, but as this scene suggests, they are still considered outsiders. At this particular party, the conversation has shifted to the fear of terrorism in post-9/11 America. This tragic event not only had ruinous physical effects on New York City, but also tragic implications on the nation’s psyche. Suspicion, especially regarding those who do not appear white, is a reality in this world and explored through the second half of the book.

Though Bennie is Hispanic, he is racially profiled by the white Crandale members and pegged as being of Middle Eastern descent. Bill derives meaning from Bennie’s dark complexion, but his racist misreading of external markers has caused him to misinterpret Bennie’s true identity. This moment speaks to a disconnection between the characters present, but in a larger sense, a disconnection between Americanns in a nation waging a supposed “war on terror.” Bill’s comment that “any kook with a grudge could call himself Al Qaeda” is such a gross generalization, that anyone who looks non-white can become a suspect.

Chapter 8 Quotes

Entering Lulu's bedroom, Dolly felt like Dorothy waking up in Oz: everything was in color. A pink shade encircled the overhead lamp. Pink gauzy fabric hung from the ceiling. Pink winged princesses were stenciled onto the walls: Dolly had learned how to make the stencils in a jailhouse art class and had spent days decorating the room while Lulu was at school. Long strings of pink beads hung from the ceiling. When she was home, Lulu emerged from her room only to eat.

Related Characters: Dolly Peale (La Doll) (speaker), Lulu
Page Number: 145-146
Explanation and Analysis:

Throughout this Chapter, Dolly and Lulu’s relationship is explored during their trip to a foreign country to do PR work for The General. Their relationship is strained as the result of Dolly’s fall from fame after a party in which a light display malfunctioned and burned the guests. This event led to the loss of Dolly’s job and her incarceration. Since this time, Dolly’s relationship with Lulu has existed in a state of ruin. She is trying to regain stability in their lives through her work with The General, and in this scene she enters Lulu’s room to tell her about the trip they are going to take.

Lulu is the only thing in Dolly’s life that holds any meaning, and she desires connection with her daughter more than anything else. Her impression of the bedroom with its bright colors shows the way in which Lulu is the bright spot in Dolly’s life, but the stenciled princesses are a reminder of the past, suggesting that though Dolly has been released from prison, the memory of this time period and the ruin it has caused will remain. The fact that Lulu only emerges from the room to eat further shows the deterioration of their relationship and the depth of their disconnection from one another.

Chapter 10 Quotes

For months she'd done business with Lars, arriving sometimes without having managed to take anything, just needing money. "I thought he was my boyfriend," she said. "But I think I wasn't thinking anymore." She was better now, hadn't stolen anything in two years. "That wasn't me, in Naples," she told you, looking out at the crowded bar. "I don't know who it was. I feel sorry for her."

Related Characters: Sasha Blake (speaker), Rob (speaker)
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:

Before returning to New York City, beginning college, and meeting Rob, Sasha lived a transient lifestyle in Europe and Asia. Upon meeting Rob, they feign a relationship to make Sasha’s father happy, and the two become close. Sasha shares some of her destructive past experiences with Rob, which leads to a deep connection between them. In this quote, the pain Sasha has experienced because of her addiction to stealing and lack of understanding of her identity becomes clear.

Sasha misinterprets the meaning of her relationship with Lars. In reality, she was engaging in sex work, but because she believed Lars was her boyfriend, she was able to rationalize to herself the act of sleeping with him for money. In this case, the misinterpretation of certain situations has led Sasha to justify her actions, but not without devastating consequences. Her struggle in establishing an authentic identity is then depicted in her comments about pitying her past self. This suggests her identity has changed since that time, and the fact she hasn’t stolen in two years suggests she is on the road to redemption. This hope, however, is counteracted by the stories earlier in the book that show Sasha later in life and still engaging in her addiction.

As you fail, knowing you're not supposed to panic—panicking will drain your strength—your mind pulls away as it does so easily…You slip through Sasha's open window, floating over the sill lined with artifacts from her travels: a white seashell, a small gold pagoda, a pair of red dice. Her harp in one corner with its small wood stool. She’s asleep in her narrow bed, her burned red hair dark against the sheets. You kneel beside her, breathing the familiar smell of Sasha's sleep, whispering into her ear some mix of I'm sorry and I believe in you and I'll always be near you, protecting you, and I will never leave you, I'll be curled around your heart for the rest of your life, until the water pressing my shoulders and chest crushes me awake and I hear Sasha screaming into my face: Fight! Fight! Fight!

Related Characters: Rob (speaker), Sasha Blake
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:

In a drug-inspired decision to go for a swim in the icy East River, Rob has followed Drew into the water. Unlike Drew, however, Rob is not a strong swimmer and gets caught in the current. In the novel, water often represents the idea of ruin, and in this scene these characters confront the ruin of their lives as Rob meets his final destruction through death.

Throughout the entire story Rob has struggled with a connection to himself, as embodied in the second-person narrative point-of-view. In this moment his mind slips away from his body, but he seeks connection by returning in his mind to Sasha, the one person with whom he has felt connected. Though he gives up fighting by the end of this scene, he continues to hold onto the idea that Sasha will find redemption, and it turns out that his death plays a role in inspiring Sasha to change her life. The switch into first person at the end of the quote suggests Rob’s reconnection with and acceptance of his identity (as, at the very least, a person who loves Sasha purely) in his final moments of life.

Chapter 11 Quotes

Ted braced himself for his moody, unpredictable son. "Hiya, Alf!"
"Dad, don't use that voice."
"What voice?"
"That fake 'Dad' voice."
"What do you want from me, Alfred? Can we have a conversation?"
"We lost."
"So you're what, five and eight?"
"Four and nine."
"Well. There's time."
"There's no time," said Alfred. "Time is running out." "

Related Characters: Ted Hollander (speaker), Alfred
Page Number: 211
Explanation and Analysis:

Ted, a husband, father, and art scholar, is in Naples. He is supposed to be looking for his niece, Sasha, but has been ignoring his duty and going to art museums instead. In this story, Ted’s primary struggles are connecting with his family and finding balance between his identity as a father and his identity as an art scholar. His phone call with his son then depicts both his inauthenticity and his disconnection from his family.

Ted’s son recognizes the lack of authenticity in his father’s voice, and immediately calls him out for being fake. Ted’s children seek connection him through sports, but Ted is seemingly not interested in sports, suggesting a deeper lack of understanding in his character and a strong lack of connection in the family. The comment about there still being time shows, on one level, that Ted does not empathize with his son’s disappointment at having lost the game. In a larger sense, however, it speaks to Ted’s belief that he still has time to redeem his family and find Sasha. His son’s final comment is then an ominous one, reflecting Ted’s lack of understanding that he does not have as much time as he thinks to redeem his marriage and find Sasha.

On another day more than twenty years after this one, after Sasha had gone to college and settled in New York; after she'd reconnected on Facebook with her college boyfriend and married late (when Beth had nearly given up hope) and had two children, one of whom was slightly autistic…Ted, long divorced—a grandfather—would visit Sasha at home in the California desert…And for an instant he would remember Naples: sitting with Sasha in her tiny room; the jolt of surprise and delight he'd felt when the sun finally dropped into the center of her window and was captured inside her circle of wire.
Now he turned to her, grinning. Her hair and face were aflame with orange light.
"See," Sasha muttered, eyeing the sun. "It's mine."

Related Characters: Sasha Blake (speaker), Ted Hollander
Related Symbols: The Sun
Page Number: 233
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote is a flash-forward that occurs while Ted is with Sasha in Naples. He has finally found connection with her, and they share a moment of authenticity in her room as the sun sets. The sun as a symbol generally represents the theme of time, and the flash-forward reveals that the sunset signifies an end to this period of Sasha’s life, and the beginning of her journey toward something better. The novel’s flash-forwards generally reveal whether the characters find redemption or end up in a state of ruin.

Sasha is one of the few characters in the novel that finds redemption. She reconnects with Drew through Facebook, which depicts the way in which technology plays a role in the way people connect in the future. She eventually finds stability, and has a family. Ted, however, loses his marriage as the result of his inability to manage the two components of his identity that are at odds in the story.

The end of the quote then jumps back to Naples, as Sasha claims that the sun is “mine.” This is a reminder of her fear of time and aging—later in life she avoids the sun altogether—but also her addiction to stealing. It’s as if she desires to possess and control the sun itself, to steal the idea of time and thus escape its effects.

Chapter 12 Quotes

Conduit: A Rock-and-Roll Suicide, by Jules Jones. Mom bought the book, but she never mentions it. It’s about a fat rock star who wants to die onstage, but ends up recovering and owning a dairy farm. There’s a picture of Mom on page 128…Mom’s mouth is smiling, but her eyes are sad. She looks like someone I want to know, or maybe even be.

Related Characters: Alison Blake (speaker), Sasha Blake, Bosco, Jules Jones
Page Number: 258
Explanation and Analysis:

The book Alison mentions here provides a glimpse into her mother’s past. The book calls back to the chapter “A to B”, which highlights Bosco’s decision to go on his “suicide tour” and Jules’ desire to document it. In “A to B” these characters seem completely ruined—Jules by his mental illness and Bosco by his alcoholism and cancer—but the presence of the book here suggests that both of these characters have found some kind of redemption.

Sasha’s lack of interest in the book suggests that she wants to put the troubles of her past behind her. Alison, however, wonders who her mother was in the past. The picture of Sasha smiling with sad eyes speaks to the conflict she lived with for so many years, and her struggle to find herself authentically. This is no longer the woman Sasha is as Alison’s mother, and Alison wants to connect with her mother in a deeper way by understanding who her mother was in the past (while also perhaps just wishing her mother were as “cool” as she once was). Though Alison generally identifies more strongly with her father, she senses a connection with her mother as she looks at this image.

Chapter 13 Quotes

At last he found Rebecca, smiling, holding Cara-Ann in her arms. She was dancing. They were too far away for Alex to reach them, and the distance felt irrevocable, a chasm that would keep him from ever again touching the delicate silk of Rebecca's eyelids, or feeling, through his daughter's ribs, the scramble of her heartbeat. Without the zoom, he couldn't even see them. In desperation, he T'd Rebecca, pls wAt 4me, my bUtiful wyf, then kept his zoom trained on her face until he saw her register the vibration, pause in her dancing, and reach for it.

Related Characters: Alex (speaker), Rebecca , Cara-Ann
Related Symbols: Pauses
Page Number: 337
Explanation and Analysis:

Through this chapter, Alex has been struggling to find connection with his wife Rebecca. Much of the tension in their relationship revolves around the use of technology. Alex has taken a job doing social media marketing for Bennie, and has been unable to admit to Rebecca that he is engaging in this work. Rebecca condemns this kind of work, and Alex feels a conflict within his own identity around the ethics of the job. Over the course of the chapter, however, he begins to see the benefits of technology as a connective force, though he remains unable to share this with Rebecca.

At Scotty’s concert, which Alex has promoted, Alex feels his disconnection from his wife strongly. He seeks her out using his handset (similar to an iPhone). His distance from Rebecca and his daughter spatially speaks to the disconnection they have experienced through the chapter. In this moment, however, technology serves as a connective force, allowing Alex to bridge the gap between them and reach out to his wife. The fact that he texts her is an act of authenticity—he transcends his fear of Rebecca’s judgment and expresses himself honestly through his newfound appreciation of technology.