Thursday, March 5, 2009

Jimmy is not a Man

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth details the nothingness of Jimmy, a depressing middle aged man who meets his father for the first time. It has a very unique style of story telling and can be at times hard to read. As I first started reading the book I had the feeling for the longest time that this would be like one of those movies where the main character is at the point of breaking with everything that's happening in his life…and then he wakes up and everything was just a dream. But as I read more into the novel I became more accepting of the book as being this man's real life when I started reading it through a child's eye.

There is a scene very early on that has stuck out more than any other for me. Jimmy has just been yelled at by Peggy (after working up the courage to talk to her), received a note from his apparently new found father with a plane ticket to come visit him, and is talking on the phone with his very annoying mother. Needless to say it's a stressful day for him. On his desk sits a little toy or stuffed animal of some sort. It looks like a yellow Pillsbury Doughboy with a top hat. The first two pictures it's in it just acts as decoration sitting on his desk. But a few pictures later and Jimmy starts playing with it. As he rereads his dad's note he starts playing with the top hat and progresses to pick it up and rub it against his face. In the following two pictures he rubs the thing over his head and then simply grasps it firmly in the following three pictures during which his annoying and frustrating mother calls again.

Had this been any other man, I would simply brush this scene off as just being his somewhat odd way of dealing with stress. However, as the story unfolds it becomes apparent to me that this is the first piece of solid evidence that Jimmy isn't quite right in the head. Although Jimmy has grown up and has become a middles aged 'man', he is really still a child at heart. And I don't mean that in the way most people do when they say that, that he still has that urge for adventure. Rather, he really seems to have not really mentally matured, his actions and speech resemble that of a child's. In this scene he looks to a little stuffed animal for comfort, soothing himself and rubbing it against his face, just as a child does with his little 'blanky'.

Even as I read this for the first time, before I had any real idea that Jimmy is very much like a child, I was disturbed to a degree seeing a grown man use a doll in such a child-like way. There are countless flashbacks, at times for no apparent reason, random daydreams, and dreams about being a robot(?). And he continually shows no confidence in anything, he always stutters when he talks and is at one point afraid that his dad will kill him. These things beg us to ask the question: What the heck is wrong with this guy? But I think that all of these things make much more sense when treating Jimmy as more of a child than a man, as his scene with the yellow creature suggests.

4 comments:

Krystal_H said...

Sorry it took me so long to comment.

I couldnt remember the scene you were referring to so I went to find it and I agree with
what you said about the toy.It was strange that he had the toy in the first place but it is good
that you pointed out in the second paragraph:

"Jimmy has just been yelled at by Peggy (after working up the courage to talk to her)," that
he actually had an ounce of maturity to begin with but it was quickly diminished in the
next scene. You could expand on his apparent insecurities and vulnerabities that surface when he
he's connected to his parents (the mother's telephone call and father's letter). His motions
with the toy that you outline in the second paragraph does suggest a type of subconscious
action prompted by his slipping back into a childlike state.

"...as the story unfolds it becomes apparent to me that this is the first piece of solid
evidence that Jimmy isn't quite right in the head." Couldn't agree more. Are there any other
similar instances that follow soon after? You could compare this conversation with his mother to
the one he has with her while he is with his dad. It could give more outlook on how much of a child
(and how emotionally immature) he is.

In your opening paragraph you state: "But as I read more into the novel I became more accepting of the
book as being this man's real life when I started reading it through a child's eye."
Are you saying that it is more acceptable in the sense that he is a child and his actions
and thoughts are acceptable for a child, or in another sense. That was the only place where I
was slightly confused. You could also compare the childs view vs the adult view. How would that
sway your accpetance?

In the final paragraph you are making more statements where you suggest that there is
immaturity, but you dont say outrught. Perhaps explaining how, the dreams and stuttering shows
he is emotionally and socially immature, not to mention a little unstable.

Nathaniel Bacon said...

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth details the nothingness of Jimmy, a depressing middle aged man who meets his father for the first time. It has a very unique style of story telling and can be at times hard to read. As I first started reading the book I had the feeling for the longest time that this would be like one of those movies where the main character is at the point of breaking with everything that's happening in his life…and then he wakes up and everything was just a dream. But as I read deeper into the novel I became more accepting of the fact that the book is merely an account of this man's real life, rather than a bad dream scenario, when I started reading it with the presumption that Jimmy's mind is comparable to a child's.

There is a scene very early on that has stuck out more than any other for me. Jimmy has just been yelled at by Peggy (after working up the courage to talk to her), shocked by a note from his apparently new found father with a plane ticket to come visit him, and is talking on the phone with his very annoying mother who feels the need to talk to him every single day. Needless to say it's a stressful day for him. On his desk sits a little toy or stuffed animal of some sort. It looks like a yellow Pillsbury Doughboy with a top hat. The first two pictures it's in it just acts as decoration sitting on his desk. But a few pictures later and Jimmy starts playing with it. As he rereads his dad's note he starts playing with the top hat and progresses to pick it up and rub it against his face. In the following two pictures he rubs the thing over his head and then simply grasps it firmly in the following three pictures during which his annoying and frustrating mother calls again. And apart from the toy, it is important to note that as he is talking to his mom he doesn't sound very comfortable. He sounds rather estranged and shy while he speaks to her, always stuttering.

Had this been any other man, I would simply brush this scene off as just being his somewhat odd way of dealing with stress. However, as the story unfolds it becomes apparent to me that this is the first piece of solid evidence that Jimmy isn't quite right in the head. Although Jimmy has grown up and has become a middles aged 'man', he is really still a child at heart. And I don't mean that in the way most people do when they say that, that he still has that urge for adventure. Rather, he really seems to have not really mentally matured, his actions and speech resemble that of a child's. In this scene he looks to a little stuffed animal for comfort, soothing himself and rubbing it against his face, just as a child does with his little 'blanky'.

Even as I read this for the first time, before I had any real idea that Jimmy is very much like a child, I was disturbed to a degree seeing a grown man use a doll in such a child-like way. He has countless flashbacks, at times for no apparent reason, random daydreams, and dreams about being a robot(?). These events are characteristics of children. Most men lead busy enough lives, and mature enough lives, that such thoughts don't occur very often. And he continually shows no confidence in anything, he always stutters when he talks and is at one point afraid that his dad will kill him. These things beg us to ask the question: What the heck is wrong with this guy? But I think that all of these things make much more sense when treating Jimmy as more of a child than a man, as his scene with the yellow creature suggests.

Adam Johns said...

Krystal - this is very good, and detailed, but I would have liked a little more about the overall argument.

Nate - the relationship between dream and reality here is a great topic, and your choice to open with it, albeit rather wordily, is interesting.

I like your focus on the toy, although it took you a little while to get there. I have a rather crasser interpretation of the toy, but I like yours, too.

I think your analysis of his childlike features has a great deal of merit. But it's worth mentioning that much of this has an even darker side - the belief that people are robots, for instance, is a rather common delusion for schizophrenics. That's strictly an example, but there are a number of ways in which you're doing good work here, but not following through on it - asking good questions but not answering them, etc. You're showing ways in which he's childlike - but what do you *do* with that?

Nathaniel Bacon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.