Thursday, March 5, 2009

Jimmy Corrigan the Man-Child

Escapism is something many of us suffer from, at one time or another. Whether it be immersing oneself in an activity, or simple day-dreaming, we often do not wish to face our current situation. In Jimmy Corrigan, after the dream Jimmy has about shooting the miniature horse, he awakes to find himself in an unfamiliar place. His reaction identifies the sort of person he is, and thus sheds light on the rest of the book.

His first obvious reaction is his reluctance to wake up. He immediately covers his eyes; perhaps he even prefers his dream to the torment of reality. The way he goes from staring into space in one panel and covering his eyes the next makes it seem like a knee-jerk reaction, and give one the impression of fear. It makes him seem to hate his life or current situation or be afraid of the unknown.

The next few panels feature close-ups of an open popcorn bag and a vhs tape, and the pattern on his pillow. The way these images contrast with him covering his eyes give them a sense of being menacing; as though these unfamiliar yet innocuous images have scared him out of his mind. They almost seem like something out of a crime scene, which ties into Jimmy's imaginings that his 'dad' is actually some sort of homicidal maniac.

Throughout the series of panels, Jimmy and his surroundings appear to be returning to his childhood. As he finishes his transformation, he gets up and is immediately thrust back into reality. These images could be interpreted in a variety of ways. First, it could be seen as Jimmy trying to calm himself by thinking of something familiar in order to get on with his day. In this case, Jimmy would be trying not to think of his surroundings. Second, it could be that he is trying to wish away his present circumstances, as though waking up from a bad dream. Then his reaction would be construed as disbelief and panic. Third, it could be that Jimmy still sees himself as a child. In that case his reaction would be of no real consequence; we would simply be seeing the way he views himself. Finally, it could be that his circumstances have frightened him and made him revert to a fearful, helpless, childlike state. If that is so, then he could be seen as a rather fragile individual unable to cope with his surroundings.

All of these interpretations are probably true to some extent. In light of these observations, we can interpret Jimmy Corrigan as a person who never really grew up. He is a child living in an adult world, unable to keep up with things happening around him. He is a dreamer, and resorts to all sorts of imaginings and daydreams to avoid the reality of his life. He seeks to escape and wishes he were still a child, free from responsibility. He is an interesting character, in that he is so normal. And yet, on the pages of the book his normal life becomes something fantastical (albeit rather depressing) through his vivid imagination.

3 comments:

tricia said...

Maybe a page number next time... nevermind.

I like the intro, though I would say that people indulge in escapism. Maybe describe him as related to his reaction earlier. Last sentence should say 'reactions identify'.

I bet he does prefer the dream... but perhaps his fear is more specific? ...'gives' one the impression of fear.

in the third paragraph it's beginning to stray from the original idea of defining his character based on his reaction. how are the close-ups related to his father?

be certain of yourself! the images don't appear to be returning to his childhood, they are. you could describe this before talking of the finish. does he look younger? if yes, how? what about his surroundings changes?

Making three new points in the second to last paragraph is risky. the first one is a little off center because he's sleeping during the strip you describe, although if you're relating it to the whole book let me know. the second one makes the most sense, he is waking up from a bad dream... if i were going to use one of these, i would use the second. consider moving it up to the first paragraph.

i would argue that his childhood was full of unkind responsibilities- perhaps his sense of time has been nonlinear from the beginning?

Again- last paragraph, be sure of yourself. you are making an argument. all of these interpretations are probably true? if they're probably not true, why would you say them? probably true is assumed, definitely true is your goal.

Megan Schwemer said...

Escapism is something many of us indulge in, at one time or another. Whether it be immersing oneself in an activity, or simple day-dreaming, we often do not wish to face our current situation. In Jimmy Corrigan, after the dream Jimmy has about shooting the miniature horse, he awakes to find himself in an unfamiliar place. His reactions identify the sort of person he is, and thus sheds light on the rest of the book.

His first obvious reaction is his reluctance to wake up. He immediately covers his eyes; perhaps he even prefers his dream to the torment of reality. The way he goes from staring into space in one panel and covering his eyes the next makes it seem like a knee-jerk reaction, and gives one the impression of fear. It makes him seem to hate his life or current situation or be afraid of the unknown.

The next few panels feature close-ups of an open popcorn bag and a vhs tape, and the pattern on his pillow. The way these images contrast with him covering his eyes give them a sense of being menacing; as though these unfamiliar yet innocuous images have scared him out of his mind. They are reminders that he is in an unfamiliar place in an uncomfortable situation – of meeting his father. They seem like something out of a crime scene, which ties into Jimmy's imaginings that his 'dad' is actually some sort of homicidal maniac.

Throughout the series of panels, Jimmy and his surroundings return to his childhood. He becomes a child and his surroundings become a familiar child’s bedroom. As he finishes his transformation, he gets up and is immediately thrust back into reality.

These images reveal a variety of insights into the ways in which Jimmy sees himself and the world around him. First, Jimmy is trying to calm himself by thinking of something familiar in order to get out of bed and on with his day. Second, he is trying to wish away his present circumstances, as though waking up from a bad dream. Third, Jimmy still sees himself as a child. Finally, his circumstances have frightened him and made him revert to a fearful, helpless, childlike state. Jimmy is thus a fragile individual clinging to his childhood as his identity and security blanket. Despite being 36 years old, he finds it impossible to cope with his present circumstances. He wants to return to the simplicity of childhood, and leave all his problems behind.

In light of these observations, we can interpret Jimmy Corrigan as a person who never really grew up. He is a child living in an adult world, unable to keep up with things happening around him. He is a dreamer, and resorts to all sorts of imaginings and daydreams to avoid the reality of his life. He seeks to escape and wishes he were still a child, free from responsibility. He is an interesting character, in that he is so normal. And yet, on the pages of the book his normal life becomes something fantastical (albeit rather depressing) through his vivid imagination.

Adam Johns said...

Tricia - very good, detailed response.

Megan - There's a lot of good material here. Especially for the first few paragraphs your writing is concise but eloquent - very nice.

Your attention to the details of images, as well as their significance, is fantastic - I was particularly taken with the way you related the "innocuous" details of the room to Jimmy's dream of his father as a homicidal maniac. You do a great job of relating individual images to larger themes and ideas. Good stuff.

Developing Tricia's comments, though, I think your discussion of Jimmy's childhood is underdeveloped. The way I'd put it (maybe differently than either you or Tricia would) is that he's nostalgic for childhood - but his childhood was miserable. What he's really nostalgic for, maybe, is the paraphenalia of childhood - comics, cartoons, captain crunch - which is a very different thing. It's a very good post, but you aren't pursuing your observations to their implications at the end.