Being There is about an uneducated and under-socialized man who is thought to be well-read, wise and highly refined. Being There by Jerzy Kosinski, is a novel about a man named Chance, who has tended his patron's garden ever since he could remember. He had almost no verbal connection with his elderly benefactor and never knew his own parents or where he originally came from. Even though he was an uneducated enigma, by appearances alone, he would be mistaken for a wealthy, refined and educated person, as he spoke slowly and deliberately and wore the expensive clothes of his employer. Although Chance never did very much of anything else, like read or socialize with friends, he did watch a great deal of television when he wasn't working in the garden.
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When Chance's benefactor dies, Chance can provide no proof of his long residency or employment at the manor and is invited by the old man's lawyers to leave the premises. Almost immediately upon exiting the grounds, he is hit by a limousine owned by Elizabeth Eve Rand, known as “EE.” Chance is not injured but she insists that the chauffer help into the car and drive him to her house, where he can be treated by doctors, who are caring for her very old, rich and infirm husband. Chance is persuaded to stay at the Rand's mansion and ends up meeting many high achievers including stockbrokers and ambassadors and even the President of the United States, who are all taken with his apparent wisdom.
Chance the Gardener's child-like character, through miscommunications and misunderstandings, becomes Chauncey Gardiner to these people of great influence and wealth, and they see him as one of them. Since his main education and socialization has been gardening and TV, others often misinterpret Chance's language and conversation as being intellectual and metaphorical, rather than literal, and this makes him welcomed by the powerful friends of the Rands. When he answers a political question with the only thing he truly knows, which is how to garden, people think Chance/Chauncey is a brilliant philosopher and someone to be highly respected.
Chance ultimately impresses the people in the Rand's circle so much that he becomes poised to move into Wall Street as a financial mogul and into the White House as an advisor to the President.
Best part of story, including ending:
I enjoyed the politically powerful crowd being inadvertently fooled by a fool
Best scene in story:
Chance/Chauncey was talking to Mr. Rand over dinner and he answered in garden talk. He also phrased things as if his lines of dialogue were shaped by TV, which they were. Mr. Rand, of course, understood the philosophical meaning of a metaphor like gardening and appreciated Chance's brilliance. This scene demonstrated that many things people say can be translated into different ways. If Mr. Rand knew that Chance was really a gardener and not fooled by his clothing and manner, then he would have took Chance's responses literally.
Opinion about the main character:
Chance the Gardener was truly innocent. His character was refreshing and likable. His straightforwardness and his television-like persona were extremely thought-provoking. Once you read the book, you will probably realize that only children act like Chance. And it's always a pleasure to be around little people who have no idea what the world is really like.