The theme of technology and its impacts strikes us once again in F.C. Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On Earth. There is technology from the way the book is set up to the theme of the World’s Fair in Chicago to even when the Jimmy was playing hide n’ go seek around the same time of his grandma’s funeral.
First, lets talk about the way the book was set up. Inside the front cover is a picture description that tells the reader how to read the book. I didn’t notice this off the bat, so I had to learn on my own, and it too me a few pages. The book is different then any of the other books we have read in class or I have read in my life. You can’t just read left to right. There are different size frames. There could be four small frames (two on top and two on bottom) making up a square equal in size to the frame just to the right. You would have to read the two top frames, left to right and then the bottom two frames left to right and then move on to the bigger frame on the right. Sometimes, Ware decided to mix up the pattern of reading, but luckily for us he inserted arrows to direct us along.
For a good chunk of the book, we learn about Jimmy Corrigan’s grandfather’s experiences growing up around the time of the World Fair in Chicago. This was the time when electricity was introduced to the world via Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse (“Worlds”). General Electric proposed to power the fair via direct current at a cost of one million dollars, but was out bid by Westinghouse by half a million dollars. The fair was then powered by Tesla’s high frequency and high voltage alternating current (“World’s). Jimmy’s great grandfather mentions that if it weren’t for the electricity, the work would have never gotten done in time for the World Fair.
Also, this fair represented the technique of how a city should be built. The Chicago World Fair “was, in large part, designed by Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmsted. It was the prototype of what Burnham and his colleagues thought a city should be. It was designed to follow Beaux Arts principles of design, namely, European Classical Architecture principles based on symmetry and balance (“World’s”). The World Fair referenced a new “technique” (referencing the Greek root techne’ of technology) in designing and building a city. Also in the city, was the world’s largest building, the building with the dome that was imaged through out the book. It was the same building which Jimmy’s grandfather and his friend snuck up to the top of. Also, it was the same building in which Jimmy’s great grandfather ran out on Jimmy’s grandfather and left him alone on top of the world’s tallest building.
During the funeral of Jimmy’s great-great grandmother, Grandfather Jimmy and two of his friends were playing hide n’ go seek in the yard. The text reads as follows,
Fortunately, for these children a recent planting of trees, telephone poles, and houses on their bleak neighborhood landscape helps to make their game much more exciting. After all, who’d want to play hide & go seek in a swamp? A half century earlier, the only place to secret yourself around here might’ve been in a depression in the ground or behind an indian on horseback. But with the inevitable forward march of progress comes new ways of hiding things, and new things to hide.So as progress moves forward, technology also moves forward and the landscape and the world are changing. They are changing from wilderness to farmlands and cities. This changing gives rise to new places to hide, not only in hide n’ go seek but also now places to hide out and get away from everything. When Jimmy goes to visit his dad, he leaves and hides from his job and his smothering mother. Ironically, it is also the technology that allows for the job and his smothering mother.
Going back to the root word, techne’ of technology, we can point out another new technique that has risen. Towards the end of the book, we are introduced to Jimmy’s sister, Amy. She is a colored girl adopted by two white parents. This technique of raising a family is certainly new and this technique poses a constant struggle from the interactions of Amy and Grandpa to the interactions with the hospital staff after her dad was in the car accident.
I started with discussing the new technique of how to read this book, and I want to finish it by talking about the book itself. On the fourth to last page entitled “Corrigenda,” Ware discusses his relationship with his father. He symbolized his life and relationship with his father through that of Jimmy Corrigan in weekly comic strips. He mentions that most people who want to write about their life experiences do so in a memoir type format. He wanted to do something different. So, he created this book out of those comic strips. He planned on giving a copy to his father, but unfortunately unable to do so due to his fathers sudden death. Like Jimmy Corrigan, Ware was robbed of using technology to express his true feelings about his relationship with his father to his father.
"World's Columbian Exposition." Wikipedia. 2008. Wikipedia Foundation, Inc. 28 Oct 2008