Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Prompt 1 - Images in Jimmy Corrigan

When reading "Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth", it is immediately evident that Chris Ware doesn't have the same motives as that of a more traditional graphic novelist. At many points throughout the novel images are presented that seem extremely ordinary and to be part of mundane repetition. The reader is inclined to believe early in the novel that the images are serving as a medium to deliver the words. However, when viewed more closely the images begin to drive the story. One of the most interesting examples of Ware's images driving the story is when Jimmy is on a plane he imagines the father that he has never met [1]. The set of images that depict Jimmy's imagined portraits of his father allow the reader to understand Jimmy's thoughts in more depth than is available through the text alone.

At the most basic level this image reflects the anxiety that is the basis of much of the novel's plot. Ware could have easily chosen to provide only one image of Jimmy's imagined father however twelve are shown. Even with most basic reading the twelve images give the reader a real of Jimmy's indecision and a glimpse into his mind. The reader is constantly provided images throughout the novel that depict Jimmy's blank stare or his slow movements. Here though a reader is given more information about what is really going on inside Jimmy's head. The reader sees that while Jimmy's actions such as eating a bowl of cereal are slow and methodical, his head is filled with thoughts that are anxious, conflicting, and burdensome. Many times the narrative moves to fantastic dreams in order to convey Jimmy's thoughts. Here though the reader sees a direct move towards Jimmy's stream of consciousness and the images are a real and fragile depiction of Jimmy's thoughts about the situation in which he finds himself rather than a fantasy. A stark contrast surfaces between Jimmy's outward appearance, his fantastical dream world, and his actual thoughts.

Though Jimmy's imagined images of his father provide the reader with a picture of Jimmy's stream of consciousness they also provide specific context about Jimmy's anxiety over his relationship with his father that would otherwise be lost. Up until this point in the novel the reader is not given any explicit commentary on Jimmy's thoughts about his father. However when Ware provides these images the reader is made immediately aware of the distance between Jimmy and his father in a way that words may not provide. Jimmy imagines twelve distinct men as his father and the reader sees that Jimmy does not have any idea about the man his father really is. By presenting this information through these images rather than through text the reader is allowed to make a direct connection with the story. The reader is confronted directly with the confusion and distance that Jimmy is feeling about his father by seeing directly what Jimmy is seeing in his mind. In contrast, if Ware chose to present these thoughts through dialog the reader would have to interpret the thoughts through Jimmy's communication which is often characterized by lacking content and being ingenuous.

The distance between Jimmy and his father is further developed when the reader considers the black rectangles that Jimmy imagines over the images of the men. Eyes in many people are the most distinguishing feature of the face and Jimmy cannot render this feature in his mind when he thinks about his father. Even from a young age a child will look constantly into another person's eyes and by stripping the portraits of eyes, the humanity of each man is taken away. In this way, the rectangles serve as an indicator that the distance between Jimmy and his father is so great that he can't even imagine him as a real person. Ware further develops this point by depicting one of the men as saying "Especially around the eyes...you've got your mother's eyes, you know." Ware is drawing attention directly to the eyes as a distinguishing characteristic of a person and Jimmy imagines his father disowning this characteristic in his son and instead giving this credit to Jimmy's mother.

[1]

2 comments:

Ronald Rollins said...

I think your final paragraph about leaving the eyes blank is a great observation. I feel like it's something that could be worked with a little more and shouldn't be delayed until the final paragraph.

Also, while the focus is on Jimmy's issues with his father, is it possible to use this sequence of images to provide insight into his social anxiety as a whole? Jimmy clearly has issues dealing with people of all sorts, and I think the various depictions of what his dad could look like might also signify problems with people (or at least men) in general.

Adam said...


Good point re: the importance of repetition in the book, although an argument like "The set of images that depict Jimmy's imagined portraits of his father allow the reader to understand Jimmy's thoughts in more depth than is available through the text alone." seems painfully obvious - of course the art is important, or it wouldn't be there. I'd like to see a more precise argument, even though your real focus is supposed to be on details of the art/text.

P2: Is this indecision on Jimmy's part, or anxiety? If it was indecision, you'd think he'd be hesitating between, say, fantastic visions of his father, rather than a series of seemingly bland, ordinary men. Instead, we have a long sequence of men who look somewhat like him in bland, ordinary ways. If this is indecision, what is he indecisive *about*?

Clever discussion of the eyes, both in the words and in the text. This seems like the potential foundation of a longer essay, and could be a good starting point in a revision.

Overall: The insight re: repetition is good, and the discussion of the eyes is also good. For such a short essay, though, you spend more time on the basics & on the obvious than perhaps you ideally should.