Boekverslag : Jerzy Kosinski - Being There
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Being There


Jerzy Kosinski

Point of view

The story is told by someone who is outside the story, a third person narrative. The point of view is most of the time by Chance, you see almost everything what happens through his eyes. But sometimes the writer gives some information that Chance can't understand, but the reader needs that information to understand the story.

Major characters

Chance: his name is Chance because he is born by chance. He is an orphan, forty years old and feeble-minded, he can't read or write. He is very handsome, well-dressed, all people like him. Chance is later called Chauncey Gardiner, because of a misunderstanding. The only things Chance knows are the garden and what he has seen on t.v. He has learned much from the t.v., nobody finds out that he is feeble-minded, he hiddens that perfectly. Chance has no real feelings.

Elizabeth Eve Rand: She is the second wife of Mr. Rand, an important businessmen. She is a lot younger than her husband. Chance is knocked down by her car and then she takes him to the doctor. EE invites Chance to stay in their house untill he will be better. She likes Chance and want to make love with him, but Chance can't.

inor characters

The Old Man: he is an old, rich man. He has taken care of Chance all his life. He threatened Chance that he would be sent to a special house for insane if he goes outside the garden. He dies early in the story. Chance takes his expensive clothes, wich suit him perfectly. Benjamin Rand: the husband of EE. He is an old man and very ill, he's dying. Mr Rand is an important businessman, the President of the USA comes to him for advice.

The President of the USA: he doesn't know what to do about the bad economic situation in the country. He is impressed by Chance's simple 'view on the economy'.

Mr Skrapinov: the Russian ambassador. He respects Chance for being the Presidents advisor and his knowledge of Russian literature. Mr Skrapinov mentioned Chance in his speech.


The story is about six days in Chance's life in New York. It takes place in the sixties. Time and place are not so important, the criticism in the story is against the whole nation.


The story is told chronologically, it covers six days in Chance's life. There are some small flashbacks from Chance, when he thinks of Louise, the black maid who took care of him when he was younger.


It's an informative opening, you get some information about Chance and his life. When the Old Man is dead then actually the story begins. Before the death of the Old Man the story is a bit boring.


The end is open. There are a lot of questions who aren't answered yet. I think the end is optimistic, because Chance is in the garden and is very statisfied with that, he doesn't think, he is just happy.


Sunday. Chance is working in the garden from the Old Man. He is watering the plants, after that he goes to his room to watch t.v. Then he hears the maid scream. Chance doesn't like her, he only liked black Louise who was for this maid. He goes to the room from the Old Man and sees that he is dead. Chance isn't very upset of his death, the only thing he says is 'goodbye'. Then he goes to his room to watch t.v.

Monday. Mr Franklin and his assistent Mrs Hayes arrive at the house. Mr Franklin is one of the lawyers handling the Old Man's estate. They are very suprised to find Chance living in the house, because his name is never mentioned in any papers. When they ask him how long he lived there, he can't answer them. He knows that he was there before there was television. He tells Mr Franklin that he didn't get any money for his work in the garden, but that he was given a place to live, food, a t.v. set and the clothes he wanted. Mr Franklin tells Chance that he house will be closed the next day. Chance has to leave the house.

Tuesday. Chance leaves the house. He is surprised that every- thing outside is like he has seen on t.v. When he crosses the street he is knocked down by a car. The lady in the car sees that Chance hurt his leg and invites him at her house to see the doctor, who is at her house. The doctor is looiking after her husband who is almost dead. In the car, the lady says her name is Elizabeth Eve, EE for friends. Chance introduces himself as 'Chance the Gardiner', but EE misunderstands him and calls him Chauncey Gardiner. At EE's home she tells him that she wants to stay him there untill he is healed again. Then she introduces him to her husband. Mr and Mrs Rand like Chance because he is handsome, well-dressed, a bit mysterious and he listens very good. When they are at dinner, Mr Rand talks most of the time. When he asks Chance something, answers in terms of the garden. Mr Rand thinks he compares the garden with the economy and thinks Chance is very wise.

Wednesday. Today is the President of the USA coming to Mr Rand for advice about the bad economic situation. The President asks Chance what he thinks about the economy. Chance don't know what they are talking about and what to say. He tells about the garden, he says that 'growth has its season, but plants can survive in the winter if they are not cut off from their roots. Then inevitably spring and summer will come and plants will blossom again.' The president is very impressed by Chance's optimistic view on the economy. After a speech in wich he mentioned Chance's name, Chance becomes a celebrity. He is asked for a t.v.interview, his name is in the newspapers and people like him. Mr Rand asks him to take care of EE. That night EE tries to tempt Chance, but he lays only a arm around her. EE thinks he wants to wait untill Mr Rand is dead. She admits she loves him.

Thursday. Chance goes together with EE to a United Nations reception. People see him as an important man. Chance talks to many diplomats of several countries, many pictures are taken. He also talks to Mr Skrapinov, the Russian ambassador. Mr Skrapinov is very impressed by Chance and his knowledge of Russian literature. Some journalists want to interview him, but Chance says he doesn't read any newspapers, he only watches t.v. A journalist says it is very couragious to admit. At a party after the reception Chance meets a gay (chance doesn't know he is homosexual). This man invites him to go upstairs and do it. Chance doesn't know what he menas and goes upstairs with him. There the man kisses him and masturbates in his presence. Chance doesn't know what's happening, he has never seen something like this on t.v., so he doesn't know how to behave. That night EE comes to his room and wants to make love with him, Chance only says 'I like to watch'. She statisfies herself. After that EE says she is in love with him, because he makes her feel free.

Friday. Chance is on the front of all newspapers. He is invited for t.v. interviews and interviews in a lot of magazines. The secret services of many countries are trying to get more information about Chance, but they can't find anything about him. This is why the Soviet secret sevice has given him a codename, 'Blank Page'. On Friday also must be decided who will be candidate for the Vice Presidency. After a few names, someone mentions Chance's name. Everyone thinks it is a good choice, because it seems that he has nothing to hide. When he is at a party that evening, he gets rid of all photographers and goes into the garden. He does not think, he is totally at peace with himself there.


- What is wrong with our society when a feeble-minded man like Chance is most likely to succeed in getting a high position in governing a world-power?

- The mindlessness of people. They can't tell what is important or not, what is real and what is not.

- The narrowmindedness of powerful businessman, politicians and worldleaders. BR>- The short-sightedness of the news media.


Chance didn't need to do anything, other people organized everything for him. Chance had just to be there. Another explanation is that most people are like Chance, they have no personal feelings or thoughts. They are blank pages that can be filled in by others. They are just there.


I think the book was very nice. I liked it because it was not difficult to read and the subject was interesting. Otherwise it was sometimes hard to understand what the writer meant. But the book was very good, and I think the writer is right with his view on the narrowmindedness of businessmen, politicians and the news media.
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