Places: The Moviegoer

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1961

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Social realism

Time of work: Early 1960’s

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*New Orleans

*New Moviegoer, TheOrleans. Louisiana’s biggest city, in whose Garden District Aunt Emily and Uncle Jules Cutrer live in a large house with their African American servants and their daughter Kate, Binx Bolling’s cousin. Frequently Aunt Emily, Binx’s great aunt, attempts to convince him to embrace her patrician and stoical attitudes, symbolized in her life in this home.

Binx has chosen to work as a stockbroker in a branch of Uncle Jules’s brokerage firm and to live in Elysian Fields in Gentilly, a middle-class suburb. His basement apartment in Mrs. Schexnaydre’s bungalow, which he furnishes with the latest appliances, contrasts sharply with the more formal living arrangements of Aunt Emily, with her antique furniture and uniformed servants, and with the Bolling’s ancestral home in Feliciana Parish. In Greek and Roman mythology Elysium, or the Elysian Fields, were where the souls of heroes resided after death. In this land of sunshine and fragrant flowers, souls existed joyously. Binx prefers the sameness of Gentilly to the old world humor of the French Quarter, where he lived for two years, and the genteel charm of the Garden District, where Aunt Emily lives. The movie theaters Binx visits for escape from everydayness are also located in Gentilly.

Bayou des Allemonds

Bayou des Allemonds (BI-yew dehz-ah-leh-MAWN). Summer fishing camp for Binx’s mother, stepfather, and their children. Binx spent summers here in his youth, but when he and his girlfriend Sharon unexpectedly visit the Smiths after a weekend trip to the Gulf Coast near Biloxi, Mississippi, he learns that the everydayness he seeks to escape through nature has spread from the cities to even the swamps. Walker Percy uses the evening supper with the middle-class Smiths, as they crack crabs and suck the shells, to contrast with the more formal meals served at Aunt Emily’s home. Binx cannot escape his depression at either place.

Feliciana Parish

Feliciana Parish. Fictional Louisiana parish outside New Orleans. Percy acknowledges in a prefatory paragraph to the novel that East Feliciana and West Feliciana parishes do exist, but he has altered the geography of New Orleans. His later novels are also set in Feliciana Parish. The Bollings’ ancestral home, Lynwood, is here and represents the southern aristocracy’s false approach to life through its reliance on social class, custom, tradition, and race, an approach that Binx rejects.

*Chicago

*Chicago. Illinois city to which Binx and Kate go, after Kate’s attempted suicide, to attend a professional meeting of stockbrokers and to seek a new approach to life. Like New Orleans, the city is dominated by an adjoining lake, but amid the tall buildings and the lake-driven winds Binx experiences the harsh malaise of urban existence and decides to return to New Orleans with Kate. On this trip Binx and Kate also visit Harold Graebner, who saved Binx’s life during the Korean War. While lying in a ditch after being wounded in the shoulder, Binx had become fully conscious of the death-in-life in which individuals exist. Because Harold is now a successful businessman with a wife and newborn son, Binx’s godson, Harold does not understand the malaise Binx and Kate are attempting to escape.

*Eufaula

*Eufaula (yew-FAWL-uh). Alabama home of Sharon Kincaid, Binx’s secretary. In contrast to Kate, Binx’s cousin and eventual wife, Sharon does not suffer from the same psychological depression experienced by Kate and Binx. Her small-town southern background keeps her immune to seeing existence through Binx’s depression-filled eyes.

BibliographyHardy, John Edward. “Man, Beast, and Others in Walker Percy.” In Walker Percy: Novelist and Philosopher. Edited by Jan Nordby Gretlund and Karl-Heinz Westarp. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1991. Discusses Binx Bolling by comparing him to other main characters in Percy’s works.Lawson, Lewis A. “Moviegoing in The Moviegoer.” Southern Quarterly 18, no. 3 (1980): 26-42. The best discussion of the overall metaphor of the novel, moviegoing. Lawson shows how watching movies becomes an alternative to living life.Thale, Mary. “The Moviegoer of the 1950’s.” Twentieth Century Literature 14, no. 2 (July, 1968): 84-89. Examines the social role of movies in the decade preceding the writing of The Moviegoer.Tharpe, Jac. Walker Percy. Boston: Twayne, 1983. Provides all the important information about Percy’s philosophy and essays, as well as biographical and other background information. One chapter is given to The Moviegoer.Wyatt-Brown, Bertram. The House of Percy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. Primarily a biography of Walker Percy’s family, this work reveals connections between Percy’s family life and the characters in his novels, particularly Binx Bolling in The Moviegoer.
Categories: Places