One of the interesting aspects of Percy’s stories that I have found is his use of pop culture. A few instances that can be found in Lancelot would be the girl that was singing Me and Bobby McGee outside Lancelot’s cell, when Lancelot talks about what he thought about “falling in love,” and when Lancelot was referring to why everyone was interested in the news when he first Margot.
Two questions that rise from the uses of pop culture are: why? And how are they used? I believe the purpose for this use is to: A) to help create the setting of the place that the author is placing the characters, and B) to either describe an event or to foreshadow an event that will take place in the following chapters.
The case for A can be seen when Lancelot talks about why everyone had been keen to watch the news during the time he met Margot, and when the girl was singing Me and Bobby McGee. The song was written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster, but originally performed by Roger Miller, to which his version was released in 1969. Another version of that was popular was Janis Joplin’s version which was released in 1971. What we have by those two points his a time period of where Lancelot is at in the present. When he talks about meeting Margot, he references another assassination that might take place. Given what we know about the estimated present year, we can figure out that he was talking about John F. Kennedy’s assassination (November 22, 1962), Martin Luther King, Jr. assassination (April 4, 1968), and Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination (June 5, 1968). This gives us a relative time period that the setting is in and helps us to think about where America was out during this period.
The case for B would be the girl singing Me and Bobby McGee. This could be placed here as a way to foreshadow an immediate event, Lancelot about to start talking about how he lost Margot, or an event that will come to past in the following chapters. If you knew the song, then we can see some correlation between it and the story. If the reader was to continue past what the girl was singing, they would sing, “Feeling good was easy Lord, when Bobby sang the blues/ Feeling good was good enough for me/ Good enough for me and Bobby McGee.” In the story, Lancelot comments about how he was at peace with Margot and how, as with the singer of the song hints at, was going through motions with his girl. Earlier in the song, we have, “I took my harpoon out of my dirty red bandana/ And was blowin’ sad while Bobby sang the blues/ With them windshield whispers slappin’ time/ And Bobby clappin’ hands we finally/ Sang up every song that the driver knew.” This could be a heads up to the reader for to take notice of the sad tale that Lancelot is going to tell, with Bobby/Margot “clappin’” and singing the blues. Later on in the song, the singer talks about letting go of Bobby and thinking about her every once in a while. Again, this could be a foreshadowing of what Lancelot is/had done with Margot.
We can see how Percy strategically utilizes these different sources from the culture/pop culture to help him set up the setting of the story, and foreshadow the events that will take place farther in the story.