Adolescence isthe complicated stage where you’re going through different circumstances of figuringout who you really are. Chapter 3 “Ask Me If I Care” from Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad depicts thelife of a girl as she tries to decide between becoming an adult or enjoyingbeing a teenager. It presents her experiences and choices from herrelationships with her friends to her interaction with an older man whichinfluences how she sees herself and her surroundings in this point in her life.In Egan’s Chapter 3, Rhea’s struggle with discovering her true self during adolescenceare represented by her interactions with Alice who symbolizes youthfulness, Louwho symbolizes adulthood and her admiration for Bennie that symbolizesbelongingness. Alice’s bedroom and her two sisters show thesimplicity of youthfulness that Rhea seems to forget. Whenthe group of friends lurks by the windows of Alice’s sisters, Rhea observes theirroom as “dark except for a pink-night light. Alice’s little sisters aresleeping on their sides, covers tucked around their shoulders. … I’m afraidthey’ll wake up and be scared of us in our dog collars and safety pins andshredded T-shirts” (Egan 40).
Upon seeing and being surprised with Alice’sbedroom, Rhea focuses on the various colored stuffed toys piled on her bed”which all turned out to be frogs: bright green, light green, Day-Glo green,some with stuffed flies attached to their tongues” (47). Just as Rhea is busy tryingto think about Jocelyn and Lou, she is suddenly pulled back into reality by thegenuine laughter of Alice’s sisters (58). Alice’slittle sisters and the teenage friends are separated by just a window and yetthere’s so much difference from where they are standing. The imagery of Alice’ssleeping sisters shows how when you’re a child there’s a feeling ofpeacefulness and security that’s in contrast with being a teenager when you’rejust left hanging out and being awake in the middle of the night. The innocentdemeanor of the sleeping girls also provides a contrast to the group’s punk appearance.Finding out that Alice had tons of those stuffed frogs surprised Rhea and it’snot just because they are not close enough to know about each other’s interestsbut she seems to forget that they’re still young enough to still be interested withstuffed animals. Also the imagery of the brightly colored frogs in that room servesas a contrast with the nightlife that Rhea experiences with Lou and Jocelyn.
The cheerfulness of Alice’s sisters contradicts the seriousness of Rhea and inthat moment it helps Rhea remember that she shouldn’t worry about the future ofher or even other’s life. So Alice and her younger sisters show Rhea that it’sfine to appreciate being a child or a teenager for now. Jocelyn and Lou’s relationship reveals theexciting yet overwhelming parts of adulthood that Rhea desires to have but isstill uncertain of. Throughout the night hanging out with Lou, Rhea describesher surroundings as “people honking and waving from their cars like we’re allat one gigantic party.
With my thousand eyes it looks different, like I’m adifferent person seeing it” (51) .While they were talking, a thought pops outon Rhea’s head “I realize that I’m beginning my adult life right now, on thisnight” (50). But then afterwards, Rhea remembers what happened on the concert withthe three of them and panics because she believes that she might have beeninvolved with it (54). Rhea’s eagerness to adulthood is represented by how orwhenever she interacts with Lou and Jocelyn. The whole thrill of the nightlifemakes Rhea feel that she’s changing and maturing now. Hanging out with Lou andseeing how Jocelyn acts with him makes her believe that this must be how beingan adult feels like. As much as she wants to be an adult, she is stillconflicted if this is what she needs right now. Her fear with what justhappened with the three of them still shows her innocence or naivety as a youngperson.
Despite the appeal of living like an adult right away, Rhea would stillneed more time to prepare herself in becoming one. Rhea’s unrequited love for Bennie showsher struggle on trying to find her place in their group and to understandherself too. Rhea remarks “Jocelyn knows I’mwaiting for Bennie.
But Bennie is waiting for Alice, who’s waiting for Scotty,who’s waiting for Jocelyn” (42). After theincident with their band, Rhea contemplates how things could have changed andthat Bennie might have finally be content with her if she just acteddifferently that night (57). During the end, when Rhea looks at Alice, shebegins to ponder “I can’t tell if she’s actually real, or if she’s stoppedcaring if she’s real or not. Or is not caring what makes a person real?” (58). Asmuch as Rhea enjoys the company of her friends, she still feels left outbecause everyone adores someone in their group and yet no one waits for her.
The difference with Rhea and Alice is that Alice doesn’t care much aboutwhether she is part of the group or of Jocelyn and Rhea’s friendship as long asshe will have Scotty. But for Rhea, she always cares a lot about herrelationship with others and especially with Bennie. She cares a lot aboutBennie accepting her as more than a friend because that would mean that thingswill be different and that she will really become a part of their group. Bypondering this question about being real, Rhea slowly understands that maybenot caring about others, their perceptions of you or being a part of them is thekey to really understand who you are. Her desire to be loved by Bennie alsomeant knowing where she fits in but by learning not to depend on others madeher find her true self.
The various circumstances of hanging outwith Lou, spending time with Alice and pining over Bennie all helped Rhea toher journey to becoming an adult. She may not be immediately ready to live thekind of adult life Lou has but being able to understand that the present ismore important and that becoming true means accepting yourself despite otherpeople’s views has proved that Rhea has taken a significant step towards maturity.The truth is becoming an adult is something that people learn one step at atime, continually.