Saturday, March 30, 2013

Revision #2 - Death as the Superhero

In Jimmy Corrigan, there was a highly debated question in class in which Jimmy’s suicide was questioned. No one could really give a definite answer to the reason, but I believed that Jimmy did in fact commit suicide. The epilogue has an unreasonably positive ending, Jimmy having a potential love interest; that last event just doesn't meld with the rest of the depressing novel, so the epilogue may just be an allusion of the best case scenario for Jimmy. However that didn’t happen. Once the images and actions of the superheroes are analyzed with the ending in mine, it can defend the position that Jimmy Corrigan plummeted to his death instead of going on with his miserable life.

A first important note to make is that there are two colors of superheroes in the book; and the different colors place the superheroes into two different categories. The first pallet is only in one scene, the first appearance when Jimmy is a small child. This primary character garbed in a mustard yellow and red attire has the critical function of giving insight into Jimmy’s childhood, which sets the groundwork for future social and psychological problems. This version of superman was Jimmy’s idol and the only role model that we know of. However, this version of Superman was disappointing for the reader, even if it wasn't for the naive Jimmy. I believe that Ware used this color change to depict that this hero isn't specifically used for the suicide imagery in itself, but instead is to made a connection that this suicide wasn't just a split second decision, but however his demise was a long thought out process of a unfortunate series of events that began with the deleterious social conditions of his childhood. Isaac Cates, a literary critic, also believes that this superman is  “a symbol of Jimmy’s lack of access to the paternal”(Cates).  Childhood is such an important psychological time, and this encounter emphasizes the miserable upbringing of Jimmy. However, many other characters also give a good amount of detail on Jimmy’s younger years, but the hero gives a critical insight to Jimmy’s childhood while also being in the foreshadowing of Jimmy’s suicide. This less-miserable man is in a world of miserable, just leaves Jimmy’s mother after a one night stand, which then in later years reflects on the cause of Jimmy’s mother, nagging helicopter set up that remains even when Jimmy is a grown adult. This begins to plant the seed of unhappiness that will just increase as he becomes older, and that unhappiness will never go away.

For the rest of the supermen in the novel, they all have the same body shape and colored outfits, depicting that they are they are the group that will become the movers and shakers in the foreshadowing of Jimmy’s eventual demise. Not only do all of them have the same body mapping, but it is eerily close to Jimmy’s body. There is indeed a gut on the characters, they have the same head shape, and all of the heroes appear to be bald. This is artistically noticeable because Jimmy’s head shape is unique in the novel, and the only other character whose noggin comes close is Amy, and she pallet wise, looks nothing like Jimmy. This becomes an essential idea because having a character that is so alike to the main character is critical because every little nook and cranny in this graphic novel is so heavily detailed and something that remains constant often has a meaning in the text. This meaning is that the superheroes are correlating to Jimmy and his feelings, whether hidden or not.

After the reader has an inkling that Jimmy’s childhood was more lonely and awkward than the normal American child, we then see the true pictorial foreshadowing of Jimmy’s suicide. Before this superman jumps, he does something very noticeably, from Jimmy’s point of view he waves in a friendly manner, and then plummets to his doom. This wave can also signify as a hello to Jimmy’s former self, one that may not even be considering suicide yet, and the showing of superman’s suicide as a reflection of what is to come. The aftermath of the jump is also signifying information to Jimmy. After the jump, a few people stop, but mostly everyone goes on with their life, and this gives up to an important question when Jimmy is determining to jump, who would care? His father is recently dead, his mother is not a positive influence, and he has no friends throughout this entire graphic novel. The only person who may care would be Amy, but in reality he just met Amy a few days ago, so morbidly, she would able to get over it. There is no one that Jimmy has a deep relationship with, and he does not have any power and his responsibilities are rather low. This can amount to a crushing amount of loneliness that Jimmy has, and this leaves very little to be a driving force in his life.

The next scene that we see with the superhero gives insight to the failure of Jimmy as a reproductive agent. In this scene in one of Jimmy’s imaginations the superhero lifts up Jimmy’s home, and lets it fall, crashing back to Earth and destroying all of the contents, including his imaginary son which Jimmy ends with his own two hands. At this stage of the game, Jimmy is a 36 year old male with no female counterpart and has had very limited contact with females all of his life; he just does not have the socialization skills to talk to women at all. This leads to the issue of Jimmy not spawning a child, and having nothing to care for in a fatherly way. This can be incredibly depressing, especially for someone who has nothing else to look forward to in life.  This can lead to a feeling of hopelessness which in recent  studies ,”found that the intensity of suicidal intent was more highly correlated with hopelessness than with depression” (Kovacs et al 1985).This scene in Jimmy Corrigan can be seen as extremely hopeless because Jimmy loses his opportunity to have an extended future. Jimmy may see himself as a child (as he does throughout bits and pieces of the novel) and his emotional feeling may bring him so much pain and agony that the only option that the adult Jimmy (or the fully mentally functioning) Jimmy can see , is ending all of the pain and suffering that he feels with a giant cement block and good aim. Either way that this is interpreted through the idea that the supermen are foreshadowers of Jimmy’s death, it displays that Jimmy is unhappy through his life, and may be so devastated that he only option that he sees is death in the end.

The next transition that we see is Jimmy wearing the superhero sweatshirt, which has implications pages and pages after he begins to wear it, and I believe this is when Jimmy is truly considering to kill himself. His father is about to die, and in this sweatshirt, the only other family member decided to cast jimmy away instead of taking consolation with each other. This action alienates Jimmy from the rest of his family, so he leaves instead and he travels back to the building where the original superman kills himself. Again, it is this feeling of hopelessness in his situation that drives Jimmy to such an extent (Kovacs 1985). In his mind, there is nothing left, no hope, only a life in which despair will engulf in his soul.   In wearing the shirt, he then wears the colors of the supermen that allude to his death, thereby fulfilling this destiny of death throughout the book.

If wearing the superhero sweatshirt wasn’t enough, the final image in the graphic novel is of the superhero and Jimmy flying away in an upward fashion.  This is Jimmy’s literal end. Jimmy has literally had the same fate as the superman that he saw so many pages ago, and now their images are together, and possibly the superhero is flying up to ‘heaven.’ With the rest of the images in the set, this conclusion can be made.

By delving through the superheroes and understanding how they fit into the graphic novel, it can become easier to conclude that Jimmy Corrigan did commit suicide. Each separate event of the superhero took the stance differently, one went for literal, another for killing his future, and another to give an ending, they all stand for the fact that Jimmy did commit suicide. He had no friends, very little family, and a future that would have been full of sorrow because Jimmy is a socially awkward 36 year old that cannot make decisions for himself and function as a normal adult. In the end, it just becomes too debilitating for Jimmy to accept his life.

Cates, I. (2011). On the Literary Use of Superheroes; or, Batman and Superman Fistfight in Heaven. American Literature83(4), 831-857.

Kovacs, M., & Garrison, B. (1985). Hopelessness and eventual suicide: a 10-year prospective study of patients hospitalized with suicidal ideation. Am J Psychiatry, 1(42), 559.

1 comment:

Adam said...

## Par 1
I like that you begin with the ending point of a class. It's an effective way of staking out your own territory, doing your own work while keeping it in context. Nitpick: there's some sloppy language, including unnecessary passive voice, at the beginning.

## Par 2
Intellectually, this paragraph is your best work of the semester. It's focused on an interesting problem, with precise insights into that problem, good use of research, and a sequence of strong insights - our disappointment vs. that of the naive Jimmy, etc. The language, especially at the end, could have used a good proofreading.

## Par 3
Again, I like it a lot. It would have been nice to see you push a little harder, figuring out the degree to which this second superman *is* Jimmy, since you're moving in that direction.

## Par 4
What I like most here is what's implicit rather than what's explicit. You come very close to arguing that the Superman character is nothing other than an emerging element of Jimmy's consciousness, with perhaps no physical reality at all.

## Par 5-6
You stick pretty close to obvious elements of his character here. It's not bad, just not challenging.

## Par 7
This is a brief analysis of the closing image, but sometimes you only need brevity. This was good.

## Overall
This is certainly your best work. Your *proofreading* has not advanced much, but your level of insight and the sophistication of your argument has. The beginning is considerably better than the end. What I would have urged to make it all fit together, and to strengthen the overall flow of the argument, is to think in more detail about the role of *identification* with the second superman here, and to return to the first (absent) superman. For instance, I would have been interested in seeing an argument saying, e.g., that Jimmy's identification with the second superman becomes complete (which results in suicide) at the end, due to the continuing absence of the 1st superman figure. Anyway, that's how I see the *implications* of your argument here. Good.