Monday, October 27, 2014

Jimmy and his Illusion

The attribute of depression that is very prevalent in our culture now gives rise to many different views towards life and how we should live it.  In Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan, we are given one more view on that emotion.  Ware seems to take a more satirical or comical approach to human loneliness and he paints the main character as someone to be pitied and to almost bring about a chuckle at how mundane his life seems.  However by using the general instructions section on the cover, we can see that Ware also wants to apply meaning to many of the frames he includes.
                Something that stands out to me is what Ware says in the Role section of the instructions about expectations or human feeling.  He describes how for many people a kind of trap of despair has caught a hold of them and it affects how we go about our days, either rendering our actions hollow or forcing us to break through a ceiling of sorts.  Ware describes this situation of bleakness by saying,
                “There are moments – indeed, das, weeks, or even years on end – in some people’s lives where there is a palpable sense that all activity is valueless.  Perhaps waking up one hopeful, sunny morning, we feel the innocent child within us reanimate, a feeling only to be shortly dispelled by the masked lie of adulthood staring back at us in the bathroom mirror.  Or perhaps someone has just let us know that we were no, after all, the life companion that they thought we were, and asked that we please not visit, or telephone, or share their sheets anymore,…”

He is referring to a crushing sense of emptiness that so many people feel that their life has not panned out in any way close to what we wanted and that possibly some things that we hold on to for stability are not permanent, especially people themselves.  We could spend much of our lives trusting someone or some activity only to have the rug pulled out from under our feet and see that the person was not what we thought they were.  This can work as the depressing event itself or something to help break through that ceiling and move away from the darkened thought process of worthlessness.
                Ware makes it interesting to apply this concept to a set of moments in the beginning of the book and how Jimmy experiences these feelings.  As a child he idolizes a superhero from a TV show, and upon seeing the actor at a car show he reacts with typical enthusiasm.  In a consequent frame the man after leaving the mother’s bedroom early in the morning, gives Jimmy a mask to wear, as if to say, “You can be my sidekick!”  Jimmy of course is too young to understand what went on during the night, and so he still is filled with happiness at his good fortune.  Ware uses these frames to set up the illusion of Jimmy’s happiness as a child, because we are aware that the man certainly was of more questionable character than Jimmy could see and that his enthusiasm and trust are misplaced.  Once we reach the images of Jimmy later in life, we see how despondent and beaten down he is and we know now that he has reached that stage of life that he feels like he has no value.  He sees the world for what it is, cold and uncaring and moving at a pace he doesn’t seem to keep up with.  Then there is the image of the superhero actor jumping off the roof to his demise.  Here Ware is using the suicide as a symbol for the event in Jimmy’s life that shows him he needs to take action.  He has reached that ceiling and been pushed through it by seeing his childhood idol, something that brought him so much joy as a small boy, jump to his death and so end Jimmy’s stagnated life cycle.  Jimmy sees that the world will never be what it was supposed to be in his childhood mind and he has to move on.

                Ware includes the general instructions in the cover to give us a window into what Jimmy could be thinking.  Since many of the frames lack words, Ware directs us to make assumptions about the main character’s thoughts and feelings, and with those assumptions we can piece together why he seems to be stuck in his life.  He is suffering from the illusion of what he thought life would be as told by the Super-man, and now that his idol’s character is revealed maybe Jimmy can move on.

1 comment:

  1. Your argument is interesting. It could be clarified at the start and more focused throughout. One problem here is that you summarize too much (the long quotation that you don’t really use also stands out), and you only slowly get around to the part of your thinking that moves beyond summarization into a genuine idea.

    For a while it seems like you’re only really saying that JC the character is depressed, and that JC the book is partially about depression. That’s dangerously close to being obvious, of course. The interesting material is your claim that the introduction is there to help us (in my words, not yours) understand Jimmy’s inner life.

    That’s actually an excellent idea and an excellent approach. But rather than just stating that, which is basically what you do here, for this essay to work you need to *use* that idea. So if we need to understand Jimmy’s inner life & thoughts through the introduction, the obvious thing to do is to pick some passage in the book (a page? a few panels?) and show in detail how we can develop our understanding of him by filtering something about those particular panels through the lens of the introduction. If you could do that well, that would make for a very interesting revision.