Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Questions of Ware/Marcuse, Day 2


Brandon said...

While reading the second half of "Jimmy Corrigan", I kept being reminded of Sartre's "Nausea". In both works the primary message seems to be that life itself is meaningless due to routine cycles that never change or present any kind of higher meaning. In "Nausea", this occurs for Roquentin when researching his book but in "Jimmy Corrigan", the idea expresses itself through the contrasting meaninglessness and inherent limitations present in both Jimmy and his grandfather's lives.

The World's Fair, even though it introduces tons of innovation, brings forth no actual change in lifestyle for either Corrigan. The grandfather's strained relationship with his own father remains unchanged, while in the future the grandson maintains the same strained relationship, which never fixes itself, even when his father dies. Additionally, the grandson continues to live his life in the same cycle of work and boring home life, and the ending of the novel seems to support the notion that even though there have been some positive changes in his life, its overall cycle will continue to remain unchanged.

Caia Caldwell said...

I am fixated on the ending of Jimmy Corrigan. I am curious about this specific place in the novel because I am questioning whether the ending is meant to be taken positively (as in Jimmy Corrigan’s life will improve) or negatively (Jimmy Corrigan’s life will stay the same). Or maybe I am over thinking in general, and Chris Ware was just writing a story without a good/bad ending.

However, I look at the different events in the last part of the story as being positive or negative for Jimmy’s life. The first two pessimistic occurrences are when Amy rejects Jimmy’s attempt at comforting her. Then, when he leaves and goes back home, he finds out that his mom he getting married to “Mr. Johnson” (also, can I point out that it’s weird his mom refers to as “Mr.” Since Jimmy is a grown man this is bizarre). I really thought that Amy and Jimmy might be friends, and that he would become more assertive with his mom.

But in the end, everything seemed to stay the same. Minus one thing: meeting Tammy. This, on the last couple pages of the book, seemed to represent hope for Jimmy’s future. Maybe Tammy and him will be friends. Maybe she is a “female him” and they will live happily ever after. Or maybe not. But, from a reader’s point of view, Ware gave the book a positive ending.

Dana Edmunds said...

I'm wondering how Ware's discussion of 1863 draft riots and the knowledge that Amy is distantly related to Jimmy (the frames in which we see her relation to Jimmy's great-grandfather's maid), factor into his discussion of race and the continuation of a patriarchal society. The frames that lay out the cycle of reproduction, or the copying of genes and the replication of self to produce offspring, illustrate history repeating itself. Jimmy's new father-in-law turns out to be racist, and Jimmy worries about what his mom would think of he and Amy together. In the end we see Jimmy ending up with another red-headed girl, and we see Amy left all alone with a can of soup, spending her Thanksgiving at work, where she takes care of an elderly white man. Does this mean that the structure of society will stay the same, doomed to continually produce this same pattern of thinking (dumb people produce more emotionally-stunted/dumb people)?

Amy Friedenberger said...

As I made my way through Jimmy Corrigan, I found myself puzzled by Chris Ware’s use of race throughout the graphic novel. I wasn’t sure if he was trying to do something with discussing race or not.

In a very complicated diagram of the Corrigan family through the years, pictures of boats, buildings, immigrants and African slaves move in different directions across the world. The display appears like a genealogical chart, linking geography with genealogy. However, the black roots are buried within this complicated mapping, so Ware seems to be leaving it up to the reader to discover this historical genealogy. Ware displays this history has something invisible to a predominantly white history unless it was clearly spelled out – or drawn.

Even in the scene with Jimmy’s great-grandfather looking into a handheld viewer to watch a minstrel show seems to be doing something with race. A minstrel figure is stealing a piece of pie from the window sill of a white woman. When William says “Poor Old Jim Crow,” he’s pretending to espouse pity even though he is clearly positioning himself as a superior being.

Chicago’s racial segregation is emphasized with people returning to “The White City” but when passing through a dilapidated neighborhood, William says, “We give them their freedom and look at how they waste it.”

Amy challenges these negative illusions of race. Jimmy and Amy are aware of their invisibility and racial difference. It’s interesting to note that while Amy was able to connect with Jimmy’s family, Jimmy is the one who finds it challenging reconnect with it. So does Amy have a role in this novel in terms of generating discussion about how race is restrained?

I read that in the original hardback, the novel ended on Jimmy, so I’m curious as why the paperback edition – which I assume we’re all reading from – would choose to add the last say coming from Amy – which shows a mundane life much like Jimmy’s – that readers didn’t know about earlier in the novel. Thoughts?

RJ said...

Jumping off of Amy's post, I was confused by the racial politics of the very end of the novel especially. I understood that throughout the novel Ware was calling attention to racism and the many ways white people try to hide their prejudices (or pretend that they don't have them). However, the ending sort of threw me for a loop. Jimmy's sister Amy does recieve the last word, but her life seems incredibly bleak when compared to the tiny, tiny, tiny glimmer of maybe-hope we get the last time we see Jimmy talking to the nerdy Red Headed Woman. I'm not really sure what Ware was trying to bring across with that coda (other than a cynical "Gotcha! Ending's still sad!" last laugh, but I have more faith in him than that).

Margaret Julian said...

I really like the ambiguity of the ending. I also think that it's pretty easy to predict what will happen later in Jimmy's life, he's perpetually sad and depressing and unfortunate. Jimmy just wouldn't be Jimmy without it. It is his defining characteristic in his own sea of boringness. Whatever glimmer of hope there is I don't think he stands a chance. There is a really interesting pattern of he, his father, and grandfather. Unless Jimmy finds a way to somehow break that pattern I don't see things getting any better for him.

Kira Scammell said...

As discussed in class, I kept a close eye on the red bird and what it could symbolize as I read the second half of Jimmy Corrigan. The bird seems to crop up mostly when Jimmy is talking to his mother, or shortly before or after an interaction with her. I'm not much into symbolism, but if I had to place the red bird, it seems that it symbolizes Jimmy's fleeting sense of freedom. The bird seems to fly away once he has an interaction with his mother, like his freedom is flying away.

Ben Fellows said...

While reading this second half of Jimmy Corrigan, I was able to read it much more fluidly than the first half, which I suppose means I adapted to his style of writing. Thus, I was able to appreciate certain aspects of the story. The way he transitions between different places and time are great, one particular instance is the confetti in the 19th century transitioning to the present as snow.

I also noticed how Ware likes to tie things in from different, unrelated parts of the story, such as "Pam's Wagon Wheel Restaurant" right after leaving the Chicago World's Fair, with its Ferris Wheel.

I understood that the maid was pregnant with Jimmy's father's son, but I didn't think that would go anywhere, so I was happy to see how he related all of it on that page, in a style similar to the cover page.

Ultimately, this novel left me feeling pretty sorry for Jimmy, mostly due to his breakdown at his grandfather's, as he had kept quiet and nervous most of the story up until that point. Then, not long after he opens up to these people, who convince him that they like him, his father dies. So when he tries to comfort Amy, she (understandably upset) lashes out at him.

I wonder, does the ending imply that things are about to change for Jimmy? His mom has met someone new, so she may be so dependent on him, on top of the fact that Tammy now sits across from him at work. I feel that it is difficult for things to change if Jimmy does not pursue it, due to his passive qualities.