Friday, November 8, 2013

Revision 2: Images in Jimmy Corrigan

            Throughout most of Jimmy Corrigan, Jimmy is seen as a rather childish character. He’s frequently depicted with a finger up his nose and being anxious about basic human interactions. The above sequence again displays his childlike nature, but what it most importantly demonstrates that he has a desire to actually become a man and live a happy life, with his biggest problem being that such a goal seems to be nothing more than a fantasy.
            The story beings with young Jimmy having his image of his favorite superhero corrupted. The author then makes a quick jump to the future, showing Jimmy talking to his mother on the phone with it being clear that he’s still treated as a child by her. This is further evidenced by his call to her at the diner when he’s visiting his father. She screams at him for not keeping her updated on his daily life, basically denying him his freedom to be an adult and live an independent life. The duration of Jimmy’s visit with his father is plagued with awkward, childish interactions. Jimmy tries his best to stand up to his mother but is still ultimately dominated by her; with his father, however, he reverts to an utterly childlike state of uncertainty and zero confidence.
            The series of images I selected shows the true nature of Jimmy Corrigan as a man, i.e., a man who does not know how to be a man, yet has a strong desire to be one. However, Jimmy still limits himself within even his fantasies. It starts with him holding his nose, just as he and grandfather so frequently did as children. This parallel to childishness is extended further by the fact that he forgot to pull his zipper up, just as many children do. Instead of he himself taking advantage of the situation and pulling down his pants, his fantasy involves the nurse being the dominating figure and sticking her hand in his pants. It shows that Jimmy isn’t a stereotypically masculine character who fantasizes about being in control of extravagant situations, but instead fantasizes about unbelievable things happening to him against his will. It seems to suggest that he doesn’t believe he ever has control over any event and would prefer things to work out better over making changes himself.
            The fantasy continues with Jimmy still seeming cautious and uncomfortable with the situation, showing his deep-seated social anxiety. Even after being dragged out and having breakfast cooked for him, Jimmy still looks relatively awkward and helpless. Jimmy’s fantasy doesn’t so much involve him being free and strong, but being free of his mother’s control and under the control of another woman, one who he can actually love. It isn’t until the very end of the fantasy when he’s putting the ring on the nurse’s finger that Jimmy displays any control over the events at hand.  It displays quite well that Jimmy desperately wants change in his life, but lacking any idea of how to change himself, his desire is for someone to change it for him.
The problem appears again towards the end of the story when he fantasizes about marriage once more. Jimmy sees himself getting married and being relatively happy, but still under the control of his mother, resulting in the loss of his fantasy wife. The only time when Jimmy sees himself being truly powerful and liberated is with the destruction of society as a whole. Only that idea allows him the mental freedom to fit the traditional idea of a man.
            It seems as though Jimmy Corrigan is written to be a character we all relate to in some way. Chris Ware has said, “I make stuff to have an emotional effect.” [1] In order to evoke strong emotions from a reader, we need to appeal to their emotions and experiences. Jimmy Corrigan is meant to be someone we have inside of us all. He has dreams and aspirations, but he’s helpless; he doesn’t know how to achieve his dreams and hopes for someone to do it for him, or for some wild event to happen to let him finally be free. It’s similar to how many Americans have dreams of winning the lottery, or for something like a zombie apocalypse to happen so that they can be a hero for the first time. Neither event involves them achieving something entirely on their own; it’s more of a hope for something great to happen to them so that they have a chance to turn around their life. Jimmy is clearly similar in this sense, albeit a much more extreme case—he hopes not for a million dollars or a zombie apocalypse, but for a chance to be free of his mother and be a “true” man for the first time in his life. His greatest ambition is to find happiness in life, much like everyone, except while many of us fantasize about extravagant lives, Jimmy wants nothing more than to be normal.
            For Jimmy, we can see the invitation to see his father as his winning lottery ticket. Him accepting the invitation and taking time off work and having a break of contact with his mother was a drastic change for him. While Jimmy was uncomfortable during the little time he had with his dad, it’s quite apparent that the loss of his father hit him hard. It was the first time in his life that he wasn’t being forced to associate with someone, as is the case with his mother, and the first time that someone genuinely wanted to spend time with him and have him be happy. His father was eager to show him around and ask about Jimmy’s life, and it was such a foreign situation that Jimmy didn’t know how to respond. The change, while good, happened so suddenly that Jimmy simply couldn’t understand the value of it all until it was too late. For just one brief period Jimmy did have a family, but he never had a chance to overcome his anxiety and be happy. He contemplates suicide upon his return home, returning to his uncomfortable life at his workplace, returning to his overbearing mother, and returning to not having any sort of dreams for the future.  He meets Tammy, a new employee, while caught up in these thoughts. He messed up his chances with Peggy--the woman who’d sat across from him before--by never talking, but Tammy seems to be a more amicable person and talked to him first, taking much of the pressure off him. He may have lost his first chance at a good life with his father, but maybe Tammy will be the person he follows his dreams with.

[1] Gutierrez, Eric. "USA Fellows Stories: Chris Ware." United States Artists. United
States Artists, n.d. Web. 2 Nov. 2013.


1 comment:

Adam said...

There's no real argument at the beginning. I mean, there is something there where the thesis belongs, but it's both simple and obvious. The second paragraph emphasizes his childlike nature, but given how obvious his basic childishness is, I'm not sure it was necessary.

"but instead fantasizes about unbelievable things happening to him against his will. It seems to suggest that he doesn’t believe he ever has control over any event and would prefer things to work out better over making changes himself." -- this is more interesting material, and is at least moving toward a clear argument. It would have been better to start (approximately) here.

One thing that's implicit here is that Jimmy's fantasies are fantasies of submission (maybe even in the sexual sense), an idea which could have been developed further. It's obvious that he's not conventionally masculine - thinking through the precise nature of his submissiveness is worthwhile, but you don't do it as early as you could, or as thoroughly as you could.

The last paragraph has too much plot summary, and not enough argument. Do you see him as being submissive to his father now, for instance, or do you see him taking enough initiative by seeing his father that he is becoming free?

Overall: Too short, too simple, with weak research and an obvious argument. There is interesting material in development here - I think something could develop out of the idea of the visit to his father as a lottery ticket, and I think there's a lot more to be said about the oddly submissive nature of his fantasy life - but nothing here is developed anywhere close to its potential.