A Visit from the Goon Squad

Water Symbol Icon

As a literary symbol, water is often connected with the idea of rebirth, renewal, and redemption, but in A Visit From the Goon Squad, this symbol is inverted, instead pointing to destruction, decay, and death. One of the primary images of water in the novel is the East River in New York City. The river is polluted and its banks are lined with trash. For those living in the New York City of the 2020’s, water is something to be feared. In the story “Pure Language,” the reader learns a water wall has been built to combat rising water levels. The most strongly symbolic moment of water in the novel occurs in the story “Out of Body.” At the end of a long night, Drew and Rob decide to swim in the East River. Symbolically, the water represents the polluted lives through which they are navigating, and the fact that Rob drowns during their swim solidifies the connection between water and destruction or death. A similar association appears in the story “You (Plural)”, as Jocelyn, in a moment of anger toward Lou, imagines drowning him into the pool. Water, rain, and steam also appear heavily in the story “Selling the General,” which focuses on the unethical PR moves of a genocidal dictator.

Interestingly, the absence of water is sometimes associated with redemption. Knowing water’s connection with death (particularly in her personal experience), it should come as no surprise that Sasha ends up moving to the desert. The desert, a place defined by its lack of water, becomes the place where she finds stability and some semblance of happiness.

Water Quotes in A Visit from the Goon Squad

The A Visit from the Goon Squad quotes below all refer to the symbol of Water. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Time and Memory Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Anchor Books edition of A Visit from the Goon Squad published in 2011.
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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Chapter 10 Quotes

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cu

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Water Symbol Timeline in A Visit from the Goon Squad

The timeline below shows where the symbol Water appears in A Visit from the Goon Squad. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: The Gold Cure
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
...on the World, which was in the World Trade Center. Bennie waits out a respectful pause, and then changes the subject back to the band. Bennie tries to rationalize the band’s... (full context)
Chapter 6: X’s and O’s
Time and Memory Theme Icon
Identity, Authenticity, and Meaning Theme Icon
Connection, Disconnection, and Technology Theme Icon
...she divorced him. Bennie tells Scotty he worked hard for what he has. A strange pause ensues, during which Scotty grapples with the past and the loss of his friend. He... (full context)
Chapter 8: Selling the General
Connection, Disconnection, and Technology Theme Icon
Fame, Art, and Popular Culture Theme Icon
Ruin and Redemption Theme Icon
...his short stature and sullied military uniform. He looks tired and grumpy. There is a pause in which no one, including The General, seems to know what to do. (full context)
Chapter 11: Good-bye, My Love
Time and Memory Theme Icon
Identity, Authenticity, and Meaning Theme Icon
Connection, Disconnection, and Technology Theme Icon
Ruin and Redemption Theme Icon
...says she has had a hard time, though she won’t admit it. There is a pause, and then Sasha tells Ted she used to think she saw her father in China... (full context)
Chapter 12: Great Rock and Roll Pauses
Time and Memory Theme Icon
Identity, Authenticity, and Meaning Theme Icon
Ruin and Redemption Theme Icon
...describes Lincoln. He looks like his father, Drew, but is skinnier. He is obsessed with pauses in great rock and roll songs. Alison states that Lincoln knows more than grownups about... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Meaning Theme Icon
Connection, Disconnection, and Technology Theme Icon
Fame, Art, and Popular Culture Theme Icon
Lincoln loops the pause in each song so it sounds like it lasts for minutes. When Alison’s friends are... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Meaning Theme Icon
Connection, Disconnection, and Technology Theme Icon
...following slide shows just their father’s response, telling Lincoln that what he says about the pause in “Fly Like an Eagle” is good to know. (full context)
Connection, Disconnection, and Technology Theme Icon
Ruin and Redemption Theme Icon
...He clamps them over her ears. The music stops, and Alison waits through a long pause for it to start again. After a minute, she asks if that is the end... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Meaning Theme Icon
Connection, Disconnection, and Technology Theme Icon
Fame, Art, and Popular Culture Theme Icon
...He agrees to let Lincoln play some music. Lincoln plays some music, and analyzes the pauses. Drew whispers to Sasha, asking if they should encourage Lincoln’s obsession, and whether it will... (full context)
Time and Memory Theme Icon
Connection, Disconnection, and Technology Theme Icon
Ruin and Redemption Theme Icon
Drew tries to ask Lincoln why the pauses matter so much to him, but Lincoln continues analyzing different songs. Eventually, Drew yells at... (full context)
Connection, Disconnection, and Technology Theme Icon
Ruin and Redemption Theme Icon
...for them, that they are sleeping. Alison hears the silence in the desert like the pauses in Lincoln’s songs. She says the whole desert is a pause. Drew admits that he... (full context)
Time and Memory Theme Icon
Connection, Disconnection, and Technology Theme Icon
Fame, Art, and Popular Culture Theme Icon
Ruin and Redemption Theme Icon
...asks if he has ever heard of a band called the Frames that have a pause of more than a minute in one of their songs. Drew says Sasha used to... (full context)
Chapter 13: Pure Language
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
...to become a star. Scotty had dared him to do it. There is a long pause, and then Scotty jumps to his feet and lunges for the door, trying to escape.... (full context)