Critics have referred to Kosinski's Being There as his worst novel. Perhaps, Kosinski's prosaic style is deceptive in its apparent simplicity (especially when contrasted with The Painted Bird). "What Kosinski seeks to do," as Welch D. Everman relates, "is to stimulate the reader's recreative and imaginative task by offering only the essentials...Kosinski's style draws the reader into the incident by refusing to allow him to remain passive" (25). This essay will propose that Being There is a major existential work following in the tradition of Sartre and Camus in which Chance, the main protagonist, mirrors Camus's Mersault in A Happy Death and in which Koskinski demonstrates the logical progression of the existential anti-hero.
An initial response to Being There often might be to focus upon the text as a type of Creation anecdote, or as a social satire, or perhaps as a political critique against mass media and the television generation. While all of these readings are legitimate, it seems that the starting point should center on Kosinski's protagonist, Chance, in order to understand the universal significance of the portrayal of Chance, and implicitly the reader, as victim. Chance is a contemporary innocent. Whether, as is often argued, he is mentally challenged or not is irrelevant. Rather, Chance simply exists. He watches television, is unable or unwilling to function within prescribed cultural paradigms, and finally, is simply a mirror, reflecting back to others sublimated images of desires projected onto him.
Chance is the American Everyman. The events which befall him could befall anyone. He, like all of us, ha...
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...en, David. Camus. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1988.
Bruss, Paul. Victims. Lewisburg: Bucknell UP, 1981.
Camus, Albert. The Stranger. New York: Vintage, 1946.
Granofsky, Ronald. "Circle and Line: Modern and Postmodern Constructs of the Self in Jerzy Kosinski's The Painted Bird." Essays in Literature 18.2 (1991): 254-68.
Griffiths, Gareth. "Being there, being There: Postmodernism and Post-Colonialism: Kosinski and Malouf." Ariel 20.4 (1989): 132-48.
Grigbsy, John L. "Mirroring of America and Russia: Reflections of Tolstoy in Jerzy Kosinski's Being There." Notes on Contemporary Literature 17.4 (1987): 6-8.
Kosinski, Jerzy. The Painted Bird. New York: Bantam, 1978.
Lavers, Norman. Jerzy Kosinski. Boston: Twayne, 1982.
Piwinski, David J. "Kosinski's The Painted Bird." The Explicator 40.1 (1981): 62-3.
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