Thursday, December 1, 2011

America and the Peach

A symbol is, “a printed or written sign used to represent an understood corresponding aspect of experience, generally read, and not appreciated as an esthetic form in and of itself,” according to Chris Ware. In his novel Jimmy Corrigan, Ware uses multiple symbols that are very subtle and hold multiple explanations, such as the bird. One of these symbols is the peach. According to Ware, the peach is, “a soft, single-seeded stone fruit, with a pinkish, red-tinted downy skin, and moist, dewey skin…” Although this is the actual definition of a peach, Ware uses it to represent America’s lack of concern for anything but itself and greedy, selfish attitude.

An image of a peach is seen during the conversation between Jimmy and the old man. The two are standing by a newspaper dispenser as the old man complains about the news and tells Jimmy stories about the peach. “Look… 4,000 Chinese people die in an earthquake, but the headline tells us that three of our brave soldiers cap it instead,” the old man begins the conversation. Then he compares the headline with the storms of Michigan that harm peach crops. Other references are made by the man, such as how the Romans and Spaniards spread the peach tree to other regions. Finally, the man says that people do not care “how many pears perish in Persia”.

Through this image of a peach, Ware represents the idea that America holds its interests in unimportant events. The history of the peach began on the other side of the world and managed to become prevalent throughout. It is not a durable fruit, such as an apple or orange, and has one seed compared to a majority of fruits with multiple seeds. This fragile fruit has lasted throughout centuries and is very healthy for humans. Because of all of this, the peach should be appreciated for its strength and durability; however, Americans forget this and rather pay attention to more important things, such as “… some… guy in… uh, panties falling out of a building”. In comparison, the headline about 3 soldiers dying, rather than about the 4,000 Chinese people dying mimics this American attitude towards peaches. Importance on the Chinese is placed because of the peach. America should be concerned with the earthquake in China, the peach, rather than the three soldiers, the man falling in his underwear.

Opposite to the idea of the peach representing America’s lack of concern for important events, the peach can be seen as a piece of “ass”. Before the stories of the peach, the old man asks where he can get a piece of ass rather than the world news. The image of the peach resembles the image of a cartoon behind. The use of the word ass may mean something that is taken advantage of and used then abandoned; this ties into the history of the peach tree. First, the Romans claimed their ass—Persia. Continuing the Roman’s expansion, they conquered others’ and received more ass. Following the Romans, the Spaniards gained power and took the Romans’ ass and spread it to America. An ass can also be used an someone who is a jerk. From the Romans to the Spaniards to the American peach harvesters, they are all asses because they take things from others and use it for their own advantage. This may be a reference to Jimmy’s father, as he was being a jerk because he waited so long to contact his son to finally meet in person.

Later in the story, the image of a peach appears again. This time, Jimmy is awaken from his daydreaming when Matthew comes to see William. Matthew brings William a basket of fresh peaches from his wife and Jimmy is asked to take them into the kitchen. Rather than snacking on a peach, Jimmy chooses to eat sugar. This is similar to the incident with the newspaper headline. Rather than pay attention to the more important and in this case healthier snack, Jimmy chooses to go for the rather childish snack. The peaches are put in the upper corner of the frame, as if it was looking over Jimmy with shame, just as a parent towers over a child with an “I told you so” face. This again represents Jimmy’s stupidity to eat the unhealthy snack and consequentially eat bugs.

Ware is able to mock America’s stupidity and selfish mannerism through the fragile fruit—a peach. Normally not seen as something stupid or intimidating, the peach takes on a new meaning throughout the novel. Although the actual representation of the peach can be seen in many different ways, it is still an important symbol that must be paid close attention to in the novel, Jimmy Corrigan.


  1. Amanda, I really enjoyed reading your post. I think you had some good ideas and think this could go along way if you wanted to revise it. I will say I wish you would have focused on just one interpretation of the peach and what it symbolizes. I think you could have done a lot with your first idea, "Through this image of a peach, Ware represents the idea that America holds its interests in unimportant events." It looks like you find some good research on this topic and it could come out a strong revision if you chose to do so.

  2. This was a little disorganized. I also think it's genuinely interesting. You are digging through the book with some care, picking up on a number of interesting and relevant details, and beginning to make arguments about them, but you don't always follow your arguments to their conclusions.

    Take your argument that Peach = "ass" = used and discarded. If you're going to make that argument, note that the book is littered with used and discarded women (Jimmy's mother most prominently; also Amy's biological mother and Amy's great-great-grandmother, if I have the generations right, as other starting points). Peaches are *conventionally* symbols of fertility and sexuality, but you're beginning to show how Ware turns that on its head: to be desirable means to be used and abandoned in this world.

    I'm trying to illustrate that you could have done more with any of the instances of the peach that you explore. It was also fine - more than fine - to go through all of them and make connections, but your transitions don't make that work as well as it could. You *can* connect selfishness (American, china, etc.) to using and abandoning (peach as ass) to revulsion in the face of the natural in favor of the artificial.

    To put it another way: this is really good in the details. Ideally, you would have worked on connections and transitions, *or* simply explored fewer details in greater depth.