In the novel, The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy, the narrator, Jack Bolling, believes that everyone has a role to play and that their happiness is predicated upon how well they play their given role.
He also believes that people get trapped in “everydayness” and become “dead”. Jack Bolling’s decision to marry Kate Cutrer is partly based on these beliefs of his, but it is also based upon the discovery that Sharon is engaged herself. Kate Cutrer has some mental problems of her own, and, being Jack Bolling’s cousin, he learns about them and observes them. As he goes throughout his days, Jack Bolling tries to avoid the typical roles of people; the “everydayness”.
When he thinks about falling into a pattern, it makes him physically sick. He is afraid to be normal, to be just another person in the world. It seems as if he wants to “insert himself into the world”, but he is afraid to because he also wants to play the roles that people want him to play, such as his aunt. His aunt thinks that she knows him pretty well, but discovers in the end that she didn’t know him at all because he was always trying to be what she wanted him to be. Kate Cutrer, on the other hand, wants to be someone who just blends in with all around her and doesn’t have to worry about making herself known or standing out. But with her problems, she can’t seem to do that. One reason for Jack Bolling and Kate Cutrer getting married could be that the other is what they secretly desire to be themselves.
When Kate Cutrer and Jack Bolling decide to get married, they are on the train on their way to Chicago. Kate Cutrer makes a big deal about Jack Bolling having to tell her all that she has to do for the rest of their lives if they do get married. This is due to her mental state, not being entirely stable, and not wanting to stand out at all. With Jack Bolling to tell her all that she needs to do, Kate Cutrer can pass herself off as being just another person in the crowd. If she does exactly as Jack Bolling tells her, she will look and act just like everyone else, but if she acts of her own accord, she will become frightened and stand out to everyone around. Jack Bolling appears to become somewhat disturbed whenever someone acts in a manner that he does not anticipate, or does not feel is appropriate for the role that they are, or are supposed to be playing.
The importance of roles in Jack Bolling’s mind seems to be how he defines and understands the people around him. If they act out of character, it throws off life for him, or at least that is how he appears to react. Jack Bolling himself does not act in one specific role, either. He appears to have one role for every occasion, place and group of people. Around his aunt, he acts like the southern gentleman, just as she wants him to.
Around Kate Cutrer, he is somewhat sympathetic, but does not appear to feel sorry for her, or pity her. This is just how Kate Cutrer wants him to act around her as well.This could contribute to the marriage of Jack Bolling and Kate Cutrer as well.
Around Sam Yerger, Jack Bolling also seems to have yet another role that he plays. He appears to be sympathetic towards the problems happening, but he also seems to understand Sam Yerger as well, whether Sam Yerger knows it or not. Jack Bolling even has a role that he plays around strangers. This.