As is demonstrated time and again throughout Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, Jimmy is an emotionally frail character. Jimmy is conflicted since on one hand he wants a level of freedom and independence which he has never before had thanks to his overbearing mother and his own lack of self-confidence. On the other hand, Jimmy seems to be afraid of actually breaking away from his mother and becoming his own person in order to gain his desired level of freedom. Being master of his art, Chris Ware demonstrates Jimmy's inner conflict in two different ways to fully emphasize the matter to the reader. First, Ware makes it clear through the plot of the story. Jimmy's awkward demeanor around most other people quickly demonstrates his social ineptitude. However, Ware hammers the point home doubly well by also illuminating the nature of Jimmy's character through his artwork. Ware is able to use his art to enumerate Jimmy's emotional issues in situations distinct from similar enumerations in the plot. In this manner, Ware is able to truly force the reader to understand Jimmy.
Jimmy's overall lack of drive and his reliance on his mother should be apparent to most simply from the beginning of the book. His mother calls him constantly to hound him in regard to his plans, what he is doing at the moment, and other relatively inconsequential matters. For much of it, Jimmy himself seems to be very reluctant and exasperated in dealing with her; he commonly explains that he's busy at work, even when he is clearly not busy, and that he cannot talk to her on the phone. While this indicates Jimmy's desire for freedom, the fact that he does not have the willpower to gain such independence manifests itself once he has met his father. While the two of them are eating a meal at a restaurant, Jimmy feels the need to lie and say he needs to use the restroom in order to sneak to a pay phone and call his mother. Later in the story he continues to be plagued with thoughts of his mother, such as when he decides he has feelings for Amy but is concerned in regard to what his mother would think of the situation.
This scenario demonstrates through the context of the story how emotionally dependent and seemingly powerless that Jimmy is. He has finally gone through with doing something on his own in going to visit his father, but he is unable to go without his mother for what must seem to him such a vast expanse of time. Thus, he feels the need to eventually call her. While the context of the story makes that clear, Ware attempts to truly drive the point home by expressing it in the book's artwork as well. A prime example of this occurs while Jimmy is in the doctor's office after being hit by a truck.
Through a series of a dozen slides, Jimmy envisions himself literally standing up out of a nest and flying through the air. He is summarily joined by a bird as they fly over Waukosha. The bird begins to descend, however, and Jimmy can only watch in horror as it flies directly into a window of the doctor's office. These slides essentially make the same point as several pages worth of text-based content. Jimmy's standing up from the nest is a clear example of breaking away from his mother and going out on his own. Ware uses the metaphor to exemplify Jimmy's desire to be free of the constraints of his mother and live on his own. However, Ware in turn demonstrates that any desire of Jimmy's for freedom can only last for so long before he will hamstring himself and return to his old ways. The plight of the bird crashing into the window brings this fact to light. As Jimmy flies alongside the bird, the bird serves as an extension of himself. The bird, just like Jimmy leaving the nest, stands for freedom. However, the bird's haphazard attempt to fly through the window symbolizes Jimmy's inability to keep himself away from his mother and the control she represents.
The bird, much like Jimmy's notion for freedom, is able to take flight. To draw a clear comparison, the bird is capable of leaving a nest and flying through the air; Jimmy is capable of taking a trip away from the city without his mother's knowledge, let alone her consent. However, the bird with Jimmy only flies for a short period of time before being drawn back to the ground in an attempt to fly through the window. This parallel's Jimmy's inability to go through his entire trip, the manifestation of his freedom, without input from his mother, either in the form of his phone call to her or his concerns in regard to what she would think of his actions. Jimmy allows his mother to dictate his life even when she is not physically present in it. Such a characterization is extremely important throughout the work, especially at the end when Jimmy realizes that his mother was not constantly pawing over him for his own sake but for hers. Once she has found a new person to focus upon in Mr. Johnson she is willing to all but ignore Jimmy. Only by understanding Jimmy's emotional issues surrounding his mother can the reader understand the devastating impact his mother's actions had. Chris Ware's work serves to strongly drive home his representation of Jimmy's character. Readers of his work are forced to recognize Jimmy's situation as they are exposed to it both textually and visually. By merging the concepts he develops with both his text and his art in seperate and distinct portions of the work, the reader is constantly exposed to and reminded of Jimmy's plight. Thus the reader can sympathize with Jimmy as the plot progresses.