Being There is the story of Chance, a simple gardener turned American media hero. He seems to know nothing but television and gardening. His thoughts and judgments are products of television and his gardening experience. Yet through his simple mild mannered ways he unintentionally becomes the center of America's business news. The author of Being There, Jerzy Kosinski said "To read a novel is to practice for real life. Fiction doesn't change anybody's life, it merely hints at the different ways of looking at oneself, at others, and at society" Since Chance was not able to read, television shows were his novels.
Television was his practice for real life. Television was like a mirror for Chance. Chance felt, "by changing the channel he could change himself" He was able to imagine himself to be people on television. I believe this is why Chance was able to put on the appearance he had even if it was unintentional. His appeal and gestures were all products of TV's influence. With the help of the old man's suit, Chance passed for a wealthy business man without even trying or knowing.
Having no contact with the outside world growing up, television was Chance's only hint of what society was like. By flipping through the channels, Chance noticed the different ways people would interact with each other. Television provided him with the hints of different ways of looking at people and society. As we learn when following Chance, he did not know all the details but he had an idea of what was going on. When Chance came into contact with different people he had an idea of how to act in their presence. For example when Chance was about to have dinner with Mr.
Rand and E. E. he decided to imitate a TV show of a young businessman who often dined with his boss. Another example was when Chance was being interviewed on "This Evening", he looked back at the many talk shows he had watched on television and imitated what he had seen.
He also knew how to console E. E. when she was crying. He seemed to be comfortable in almost any situation even talking to world leaders such as the President of the United States. The only thing that Chance did not know how to act around was sex.
He had no idea what it was. He did not have the slightest idea of what to do with E. E. in bed. TV never showed sex so he did not know what to do. Chance only knew what was showed on television.
When people saw Chance on TV, they saw him as a handsome, smart, witty, wealthy business man. As Kosinski said, "it merely hints at the different ways of looking... at others." They could not see what Chance was thinking, as the book says, "television reflected only people's surfaces" They did not see him for who he was, but rather for who he appeared to be. Chauncey Gardiner was all they saw.
The pictures in the magazines and newspapers could not pick up Chance's bewilderment or his other thoughts. This was the main reason Chance was able to climb the business ladder. Television was Chance's practice for real life. He used shows as examples of how he should act and he made assumptions on people based on TV. He was able to pass as a successful business man because people were only given a hint of what he was like. He followed the hints of TV and became more than he ought to be..