September 23, 2013
The novel is titled Being There with the impression of the character Chance who in reality is just there. Chance lived a very sheltered life. He was an orphan taken in by the Old Man and never stepped outside the gate of the mansion that he was living in. Chance learned be a gardener and lived his life taking care of the gardens around the mansion. He knew a lot of plants, bushes and trees and that was his job while he lived with the “Old Man.” Chance was not educated as he did not know how to read and write, he never went to school and learned the things he knows from watching television. He would compare life’s situations from what he learned from the television. When the old man passed away, there was nothing on the estate about Chance and who he was and the estate was not being left to him. Chance couldn’t answer any of the lawyer’s questions because he was just there since the Old man brought him in to leave there. Chance
The Importance of Being There: Chance as Catalyst
Chance, the hero of Jerzy Kosinski's novel, Being There, reminds the reader of the textbook definition of a chemical catalyst: in simply "being there," he effects change on the people and events surrounding him while remaining wholly intact within himself.
In many instances throughout the novel, Chance finds himself in situations where he must react to those around him. As he has no real life experience, he can only respond to these people and situations with the tools that have sustained him for his entire life: his garden and his television. His simple way of relating events to the garden cause other people to pause and reflect on his words, to find profundity where none has been offered, and to look at things differently from that point forward. One such example occurs when the President of the United States is introduced to Chance. In the course of the conversation, he asks Chance what his thoughts are on “the bad season on The Street.” (Kosinski 54) Chance, taken aback, can only comment that there are seasons to the garden: seasons of growth, and seasons of rest, followed by growth again. (Kosinski 54) The President, mistaking this small statement of fact to be the declaration of a sage, adopts the attitude of optimism and hope that, in the President’s mind, Chance has offered. In fact, however, Chance only replied to a direct question with a direct, simple answer that fit his own limited experience, yet he serves as the catalyst that prods the President to make a speech that sets economic policy. Not all of Chance’s encounters are so simple. EE Rand has built an entire life for Chance, based solely on what she has seen and imagined him to be. His expensive clothing, lack of identity, his detached and calm manner, and air of mystery have intrigued her to the point of envisioning herself as a different woman---uninhibited and unreserved, and making love to a man other than her husband. His very presence has captured her imagination and given her a new persona, while Chance remains completely unaware of her passion. He lies passive while EE kisses and touches him, wondering what to do, until EE decides that he is a man of decorum and restraint, who would not think of taking advantage of another, and is actually quite European in this way. Chance, totally confused and not understanding what this is all about, remains silent as usual, simply there and nothing more. (Kosinski 73-79)
The mystery that is Chance is not lost on others. He is approached by an unnamed man who speaks to him softly and laughs. Chance, not knowing or understanding what is being said, simply answers yes whenever a question is asked of him, or smiles and nods. This unknown man asks a question that Chance does not understand, so he makes no reply. The question is asked again with the same result. Taking silence for consent, the man wants to go upstairs and “do it.” (Kosinski 108) This