Thursday, March 20, 2008

Formal Blog on "The Smartest Kid on Earth." (hyperbole anyone?)

First of all, welcome back everyone, I hope you all had spendid breaks! I think this book is very interesting on many levels. It amazes me how every little detail could mean something and how intricate everything is. At first I thought, like everyone else, "oh a huge comic book, sweet thank god it isn't Mark Twain." I was wrong. It actually has a very complicated narrative that I feel is open to much interpretation. I feel like we could talk about this book forever because there is so much to interpret. That is what I like about it. It is very weird in my opinion, but I actually enjoy reading it more than a conventional novel. There were a lot of parts that I marked as interesting, but i'll attempt to explain one as I saw it.

In the book, Jimmy has a whole lot of fantasies, and they usually interrupt the narrative. I found the fantasies he had when with his dad very interesting. I also find their relationship interesting. Jimmy is so soft spoken that he never stands up for himself, but his Dad has never been there and after he left him and his mother, he still isn't very warm-hearted when they meet in Jimmy's thirtys. On the one page he calls Jimmy a "mistake," and proceeds to say that he isn't the only "mistake" he ever made. In some of the fantasies he has, his Dad makes him kill animals and is abusive. This is obviously a metaphor for the emotional abuse Jimmy has been handling from him his whole life. One part that I found interesting was when he first meets his father in the airport and he "fantasizes" that he is awkwardly in his bedroom and he breaks his mug and hits his father, while his father asks politely for him to stop and laughs about it while getting hit with broken glass. I feel like this is basically Jimmy switching places with his father. He has always been so passive and when people walk all over him he plays it off and awkwardly laughs while completely submissive. His dad has been crushing him his whole life by never being there and affecting his mother, so he is dreaming that he is "crushing" his father instead, while his father passively takes it.

On the next page it is back to Jimmy sitting alone in his apartment and it picks apart a picture of his mother, father, and himself. We see this picture being taken later in the text, and this image repeats itself multiple times. The picture is ripped, one side has him holding his mother's hand, and the other is his father alone. It shows the picture frame upright, then turned over, then a drawer which leads us to believe he put the photo in a drawer because he couldn't look at it. These images of the frame are connected to the part of the picture with his mother in it. I may be going out on a limb here but what I got from it was his mother was holding on to the image of the three of them, and she never let go, but she supressed her feelings for Jimmy and put them away in the "drawer." The image of his father is attatched to an image of a truck dumping off bricks in a pile and I believe this symbolizes his father dumping him and his mother into a pile of other things he has dumped. We did learn later in the text that his father has more "mistakes" or children.

In the bottom corner, we see a photo of his grandparents; his father's parents, together. Then to the left there is a breakdown of their lives. First the grandparents concieve his father, we do not see an image of his mother's parents. We then see Jimmy being concieved by his mother and father, and then it points to the ripped photo alluding that his father left when he was just a small child. It then progresses to "now" which is the three of them, unhappy, living seperately and not as a family. The next image is just Jimmy and his mother and a gravestone in his father's place, foreshadowing his death. Then it is just him and his mother. His father was only there for one segment of his life, and then he leaves again, this time for good. In all of the images his mother's head is faced down as if she is always sad. We never actually see her full face in the text, and I think that has a lot of meaning. We don't see women's faces till towards the end of the novel, and I think this is because first off Jimmy's mother smothers him and having no father causes him to be completely awkward with women. I think his mother's face not being visible, and her always looking down symbolizes how his father leaving affected his life and caused him to not be able to deal with women. Overall, his relationship with his father, and the fantasies he has about it are very powerful. I think Ware revolves the entire narrative around the effects of his father leaving. He uses a lot of repeated images to show how much of an impact it had on Jimmy.

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

This is a nice demonstration of how much it's possible to do with just a handful of images from this book; my main wish after reading it was actually that you had focused further, by trying to thoroughly explore a somewhat more limited set of ideas instead of touching on so many.

Your discussion of the book's refusal to show women's faces, for instance, is a great starting point, but also a huge topic (think for instance of how this picture relates to the woman with the greenish hair on the plane). Literally, one reason we don't see any women's faces is that Jimmy won't even look them in the eye.

Your discussion of his fantasies of crushing his father is also good - I wonder again if more focus would have been possible (for instance, some of the bloodthirsty details of the injuries he inflicts on his father are relevant).