After finishing Vertigo it is clear that the novel is dived into three sections: the girl, an elderly gentleman, and the boy. Each of these divisions is broken into segments of time: years, months, and days respectively. Why does Ward choose to do this? Is it his way of emphasizing the importance of his characters or is it simply used to describe the events of the falling economy? For example, the elderly gentleman’s section that is divided into months shows how quickly he is losing his business and his health. If the pace was any faster, it would seem unrealistic. The last image of the elderly gentleman's section is what appears to be the elderly gentleman cutting up maps or something similar. What is Ward trying to say with this image and how does it fit in with the rest of the section?
Storyteller is written as a collection of poems and short stories, mainly inspired by the stories Silko was told as a child by her relatives. The format of the book gives the reader an understanding of the integral part storytelling plays in Silko’s Native American world. The memories she has of her extended family are made up of these stories and the way her family told them to her. By creating this novel of stories, Silko creates a book that preserves this tradition of storytelling. Through the stories however, the reader is able to pick up on other themes of Native American culture. For example, the plight of different tribes is clearly shown as white settlers take over the land and clash with Native Americans. Many problems that are less talked about in the story of American history are shown through the stories Silko tells. For example, page 84 offers a brief history of Navajo slavery by whites as we hear the history of one of Silko’s relatives. This and many details in other stories make it clear that this novel offers more than an example to the Native American tradition of tall tales and stories, but gives a unique perspective of the Native American people as a whole, looking at many of the harsh realities they faced as their customs and traditions were crowded out by the settlement of their land by whites.
The stories in Storyteller differed immensely from the stories I was told when I was little. For instance, many of the stories shared by Silko did not have the conventional “happy ending”. This was illustrated in one of the first stories of the book (located on page 1) about the little girl who wanted to eat yashtoa and drowns herself when she cannot find sticks for the fire. In the end, the girl’s possessions turned to butterflies. Another example was the story in which the two sisters were left alone when the families of their town flee from floodwaters (page 36). At the end they all turned to stone which is again, a very bizarre ending for a story aimed at young audiences. There were lessons and themes in each of the previous stories however. Each seemed to emphasize the value of nature and various other themes in Native American history and culture. The stories my parents told me were typically spin-offs of the classic Disney tales that usually ended in the phrase, “and they lived happily ever after” and taught me virtues such as honesty and individuality. While the story lines were decidedly less dark than the ones told to Silko, I do believe they still served some of the same purposes. Through comparing Silko’s stories to the stories I was told, it is clear that stories told reflect the type of society people live in. Stories emphasize societal norms and they reinforce particular beliefs and traditions. I find it interesting that each culture has stories that can be so different from the stories of another culture, and yet they still have some of the same purposes and themes.
Ward’s graphic novel Vertigo begins in 1929, the year the stock market spiraled and the beginning of one of the most difficult economic times America has ever faced. The story contains many different symbols reflecting the hardship caused by the Great Depression. One of the most fascinating symbols is the use of weapons. It is as if each character has to fight against the political times to survive. In the section of the girl, the man (presumably her father) attempts suicide after he loses his job. The gun is his way out and rather than use it against someone else, he uses it on himself to try and escape reality. In the June section of the Elderly Gentlemen, the bandits whip various union employees as the man instructed them to. He is oblivious of the economic situation and only cares about his company losing money, so he uses the whips to try and destroy the people who oppose him. Finally, in the boy’s section, the idea of whipping comes back full circle in a different manner. His father whipped him when he was younger, representing the oppression that the elderly gentlemen is in turn continuing. However, when the boy goes to leave his father, he fights back and protects himself, providing a slight hope that the characters will be able to fight against the hardships to one day reach their goals and ultimately be happy.
Vertigo was a very interesting read. I didn't read the introduction by David A. Berona in my copy beforehand, but after going through the story once, I decided to go back and read it before skimming through the book again. It talked a bit about his other wordless stories, but then it pointed out some interesting things about Vertigo itself that I had not caught during my first read through. For one, all three characters' live intersect on multiple occasions. It was clear to me that the boy and girl were engaged and that the boy had given a transplant of some sort to the old man, I hadn't caught that the girl's father had used to work for the old man specifically and was one of the many people he was forced to lay off. It also pointed out the symbolism of some of the imagery in the woodcuts, specifically the telephone lines that reoccur everywhere in the books. How they can represent communication and power to some like the old man, but act like a spider web that isolates others like the boy. It was enough that I went back and looked at the book a second time. Other reoccurring imagery I noticed were transportation like trains and cars and tall, dark, foreboding city buildings.
Vertigo is a story of three overlapping lives during the Great Depression. Lynd Ward breaks the book up into three sections, but each section is a different length and has a different interval of time. Despite the book being broken up into these sections, in order to understand the book, you need to view all sections. At first, the sequence of pictures did not always make sense. After going through the whole book, the sequence made more sense. For example, towards beginning of The Girl, there is a picture of a topless girl and on the next page there is a picture of her holding a hat over a man’s head. During a first reading, this seems to be odd. After seeing the weak and medicated elderly gentleman, the sense of health and strength is more obvious. Vertigo is not an easy book to understand without going through it multiple times since some images are there to show the quality of the person, rather than a specific action or event.
Wards graphic novel Vertigo at first seemed like it would be a very uninformative read. When skimming through it the first time it was obvious that there was a story and deeper meaning behind it. Yet, all that was interpreted from it was a progressively bleak situation for all three parties involved. Then, after putting in the real time to analyze each page, the true depth of the story came out. Vertigo shows a story of a poor girl with high hopes, a rich lonely elderly gentleman, and a boy looking for his big break. With all that, not every page is all too clear. For example, as mentioned in an above comment. At the end of “December” for the elderly gentleman, it shows him cutting up newspaper clippings. Something upon reflection as writing this may be an action the boy would do. In a scene the boy does take some of the elderly gentleman’s blood substance. This could be saying that in the times of the depression, no matter how wealthy you were, the times affected everyone in a negative way.
While reading Storyteller by Leslie Marmon Silko, I was caught up in a few of the stories but others made no sense to me. A lot of the stories had very abrupt endings and did not always come to a resolution, which would allow the reader to draw their own conclusion. Also, many of the stories had very sad story lines but they did so to help convey a powerful message to the intended audience, like a young Native American child. The most interesting story for me was the Storyteller narrative starting on page 17. In the beginning of the narrative a young woman is locked inside a prison for reasons that we do not know. The narrative goes on to tell about how her grandparents have raised her and how her grandfather is a great storyteller that can tell stories for days, even in his sleep. Throughout his storytelling he must tell the truth even if the story becomes unpleasant. Telling the truth is one of the most important details in storytelling for their culture since this is the way they passed history down from generation to generation. This was engrained in the young women so much that she was willing to spend the rest of her life in jail because she would not lie and as she said, “The story must be told as it is” (Silko, pg. 30). Although these people did not have much in their life, they would always have their world and no one could take that away from them. They looked out for each other and struggled to deal with the changes happening all around them. A sense of stubbornness comes from all the characters of the native tribe in the story and they seem to be very content with how they live their lives before the world changed around them.
One of the most interesting choices that Ward makes in Vertigo is to portray the wealthy gentleman as a sympathetic character. Despite his mansion and vast funds, the elderly man induces pity rather than envy in viewers. A number of his images feature a medicine bottle coupled with an increasingly drawn facial expression. This expression persists even when he is pictured on a tropical vacation. The gentleman appears emotionally tormented and extremely lonely, even in the midst of a beautiful beach. After coming home, his haggard look of despair appears to deepen with each subsequent phone call he makes to reduce wages and layoff employees. These acts would be enough to turn viewers against him, as he is responsible for reducing the quality of his employees’ lives. However, by showing viewers the man’s pathetic state of health and lonesome existence, Ward ensures that they will not have ill will towards this specific person. He does not make a villain out of the individual who seems immediately responsible for the hard times. I believe that Ward instead wants to draw attention to the system that allows these atrocities to occur. He does not fault any single person for the Great Depression, but sincerely believes that the capitalist system is to blame.
Vertigo was the first graphic novel I have ever read. I really enjoyed that the lack of words allowed for greater attention to details. Even though the illustrations were in black and white, I still found that there was so much depth and content within each picture block. I did, however, become confused at times with the story’s progression. Since there was no narrative, I often misinterpreted the images and I am still not 100% sure if I know the entire story correctly. I did find the small detailed texts within the pictures to be extremely helpful. They helped me understand what exactly was going on and served as “checkpoints” throughout the story. One thing I particularly took notice of was the use of symbols, such as the hospital sign, the National Guard/government eagle sign, and the badges of those in a position of authority. Another detail I noticed was the Elderly man holding a rose on the first page of his section. I saw it once more when he was being served at his dining room table and again when he was on the phone with the detective. This could signify several different meanings, characterizing his personality, such as his passion towards his business. I also thought the introduction section was crucial to understanding this story. It provided background on not only Ward and his style, but on the girl, the boy and the elderly man. This helped me to follow the story more clearly and I often found myself flipping back to the introduction for answers or clarification.
Many of the stories in "Storyteller" seemed, at first glance, very cryptic to me, although as I read, I realized that this was just the nature of the book. Some of the stories were grounded in reality, such as in the poem "Lullabye," when Ayeh unknowingly signed Ella and Danny away to the "doctors" and eventually went crazy. Other tales seemed to be going in the same direction, yet ended up with no resolution and a very unclear meaning, for example when the little girls who ran away from the flood chased after their tribe, only to to turn to stone once they reached the top of Maúhuatl, the "high place" that their people went to escape. The more I read, the more interested I am in knowing how these stories may have changed over time. Having been passed down for generations, I can only imagine that they could have made more sense (or, for some, had a changed meaning) in past iterations.
In Ward's Vertigo, the three characters show three different points of view of the depression. The girl shows the perspective of weathering the depression and taking care of her father and the boy shows that of someone struggling to make something of oneself during a difficult time. However, I believe that the elderly gentleman's perspective gives the most overarching view of the depression. The images shown in it highlight many of the more historic events of the period. It starts with showing the collapse of the market through the gentleman's business going downhill, and then moves on to show images of the strikes and riots that were prevalent during the depression. In particular the pictures of the armed guardsmen putting down the "Don't Scab: fight for a decent living" riot were interesting to me because they showed the strain between the working class and corporations/government. Men desperately trying to make a "decent living" are met with bayonets. I also found the large presence of the eagle in the first of the two images intriguing because to me it is similar to the Iron Eagle of Germany, further symbolizing how those in power are grinding the lower classes down at the point of a gun.
Vertigo is intriguing on how it is constructed. The page numbers are left out and chapter lengths vary. The year 1931 has one page with the girl waiting and wondering. Emphasis on other events didn’t matter to her. The book also starts with sections marked with years, then changes to months, and ends with days.The style of the drawings makes the reader analyze the picture instead of just glancing at them. Abstract lines of rain, sunshine, and shadows give it more depth and meaning. Most of the faces are normal except when the men are arguing over the stock crash. Their yelling faces are deformed and bizarre.Towards the end there is an exchange of money between the priest and doctor. It is not clear why this happens. Also, there is the question of if they were the reason the stock market recovered. It shows the old man making a phone call each time people are laid off work. Once he is feeling better, the stock market recovers.It is fitting that the book ends with the couple going down a roller coaster. The pictures makes me think they are on the downhill part of their life and they made it through the worst parts.
Vertigo was an unorthodox visual narrative, which contained three somewhat overlapping stories presenting individualized snapshots of life affected by the great depression. Utilizing the medium of woodblock prints, this text was at a glance was easy to flip through and appreciate the images from a superficial standpoint for their sheer artistic merit, but needs to be scrutinized closer to resolve the true meaning and hidden details. The use of repetitive images and symbolism, such as the storm which begins at the amusement park, aids to the texts social commentary on the great depression. With overtones of moral depravity, visual components such as the elderly gentlemen self-medicating and examining his aging body naked in front of a mirror, worked to instill the impression that the characters actually felt and had to face the gripping fear surrounding the uncertainty in the future, and the present status of their livelihood.
When reading the The Storyteller written by Marmon Silko I was taken aback on how the author just jumped into the content. I easily became lost on in the short stories and although I was able to grasp the morales or points of the short stories I found myself discouraged. However as I read farther into the book there was a common theme about the struggles a Native American child went through. The combination of short stories and poems used language that created vivid images in my head making it more powerful.My question to the author is this: Since the stories were passed down, how did they change overtime considering the morale and clarity?
In Lynd Ward’s wordless novel, Vertigo, we get a complete portrayal of the victims of the Great Depression as well as the oppressors, in this case, the elderly man. Although this old man does despicable things such as laying off workers, reducing breaks, and brutally suppressing strikers when his profit drops, we are reminded that he is also cultured and sympathetic. Ward depicts him as a frail man who needs lots of medicine and requires servants to help getting dressed. Ward shows him naked in an early plate to emphasize this point. This gives the old man’s character another dimension, pointing out that he is also a human being that suffers just like the rest of characters in the novel. Ward wants to express that the real devil is capitalism—everyone does what he or she has to do to survive. The old man is just another victim falling under the destructive power of Capitalism.