Study Guide

Ray Lynn in Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

By Ben Fountain

Ray Lynn

Wannabe Glenn Beck

One of the reasons Dime becomes a father figure at the ripe young age of 24 is the fact that no one in Bravo has had a particularly good home life. Billy's family is no exception: the Brady Bunch the Lynns are not.

Billy's dad, Ray, is a scumbag. There. We said it. He's one of those unredeemable characters that are so nasty you just hope something terrible happens to them—except that, dangit, Ray's already had something bad happen to him, and he's still vile.

As Kathryn puts it:

"Shut up. What I mean is he likes being an asshole, he enjoys it. Some people you get the feeling they can't help it? But he works at it. He's what you'd call a proactive asshole." 

"What does he do?"

"Nothing! That's my whole point, doesn't do s***! Won't do his physical therapy, never goes out, just sits in that damn chair all day watching Fox and listening to fat-ass Rush Limbaugh, won't even talk unless he wants something, and then he just grunts. Expects us to wait on him hand and foot."
(Bully.4-6)

Nasty, right?

Unfortunately, that quote doesn't quite capture the whole hatefulness of Ray. Hang on to your butts, dear readers, 'cause here's Billy's lengthy diatribe where he tries to relate just why Ray is so terrible:

And all those years he'd kept apartments in Dallas and Fort Worth, that era came to a sputtering and ignominious end too, though he was plotting his comeback in between the odd jobs that came his way, emceeing local beauty pageants and Rotary Club banquets, "monkey gigs" he called them in the bitter, waspish voice he used at home, the one best suited to his default settings of contempt, sarcasm, and general hatefulness. The way he could switch from that to his professional voice was something to see, a kind of ventriloquist's trick, no dummy necessary. He'd be berating you for, say, failing to lather the tires with sufficient Armor All to achieve that lustrous showroom shine, and in the midst of his ruptured sewer line of f***s and damns and worthless-piece-of-s***s his cell would ring and it was like a switch flipped, all at once he was the hip, happy voice of ten thousand drive-times and the perennial metro-area Arbitron champ.

Billy hated that. Not just the lie of it but the affront to nature, like someone's head changing shape right before your eyes. But the comeback. That was his mission. Through research Ray concluded that the market could support yet one more aggrieved white male defending faith and flag from America's heartland. He studied the masters, followed the news, logged serious hours on the Internet. He began making demo tapes and sending them out; the family became his test audience for ever more baroque elaborations of conservative creed. "America's Prick," Billy's elder sister, Patty, called him after an especially inspired riff on the welfare state. He'd leaped straight from rock 'n' roll to hard-core right wing with no stops in between. It was a remarkable feat of self-actualization, but at what cost, what stresses of body and soul, a bending of the psyche beyond human limits such as might be endured on a space voyage to Mars. The man existed in a 24/ 7 paranoid clench. He had TV and radio for intellectual affirmation, a two-packs-a-day habit for sensual sustenance, and none of the mundane distractions of fresh air or exercise. Thus he was operating at peak efficiency until the day he rose punch-drunk from the couch, staggering, sloshing his words, comically swatting his head like a man trying to ward off a swarm of bees.
(Bully.9)

Can you say "ew?" Ray is selfish, deceitful, ungrateful, manipulative, and false. He's basically a stand-in for the worst aspects of the Texas society Billy comes from. And Billy can see right through all the BS.

However, despite the fact that there are almost no redeemable qualities about Ray, Billy still craves his approval like Cookie Monster craves cookies. (We refuse to acknowledge the millennial development that has good ol' Cookie Monster hungrily devouring vegetables and the like.) Billy isn't a huge fan of his dad—who is?—but it's only natural to seek approval from your parents, whether they're likeable or not.

As a final stab in the back, just before he has to leave, Billy starts watching Brian ride around on the back of Ray's motorized wheelchair laughing his little buns off while Ray makes it pop wheelies. Billy's hoping for maybe some moment of reconciliation, but Ray pretty much just looks back at him and gives him "one of the great silent f***-offs of all time" (Bully.218).

Thanks, Ray.

What a jerk.

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