It is clear that Ware wrote Jimmy Corrigan with influences from technology. Beginning with the inside cover, the book is constructed as a story within a manual, supposedly one for some mechanical machine. The General Instructions inform the reader on how they should read the manual, including sections on “Ease of Use” and “Technical Explanations.” Throughout the book, the reader is interrupted several times by instruction sheets and diagrams.
I believe this leads to the overarching theme of modernity. One half of the storyline takes place during the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. Chicago is located in the Midwest and therefore can be related to the great move of American settlers into the “heartland” of the country. The World’s Fair, or the World’s Columbian Exposition, celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s landing in America. This event caused the Midwest to be seen as a great land of growth and prosperity. This was further fueled by the fair, which established America’s entrance into modernity and urban development. Impressive architecture, electric lighting and an expansion of the arts were all revolutionary advancements introduced there. In effect, it shed light on American industrialism and the importance of improving America’s lands for the better. The story mentioned the White City, which was a group of important buildings known as the Court of Honor, covered with bright white stucco. It is seen as a significant point for advancement in the story. The city of Chicago essentially went through a beautification process and attracted millions of visitors to the “Metropolis of the West.”
The inclusion of this significant event in America’s history relates to Ware viewing the negative effects of modernity. This event was supposed to be a kick-start to all future advancements and the beginning of a new and improved America. Ware interweaves the story through two generations. One of Jimmy and his estranged father, and the other of his grandfather and great-grandfather. Both generations experienced familial struggles with the absence of the important father figure. His great-grandfather grew up with an abusive father during the construction of the World’s Fair. His experiences are related to Jimmy’s newly discovered relations with his father.
I believe that Ware is explaining that in addition to the technological shifts of the modern world, society as a whole was also affected by these changes. This is a common and popular argument, but one I feel that can be effectively applied. Technology, such as the phone and computer, interferes with interpersonal human interaction. Gone are the days of face-to-face interaction and information traveling by word of mouth. The ease of instant technological communication allows for the disappearance of the need for humans. This can best be seen in Jimmy’s relationship with his mother. Not once do we see an image of his mother. We only receive a sense of her character by her voice and the tone in which she speaks through the red phone. Jimmy is a lonely man in a world of isolation and this blinded communication only makes it worse. Peggy, his office crush, fails to notice his presence because Jimmy is too afraid to speak up to her. He is also overlooked by the public and really only has interaction with his needy mother and has a brief interaction with his nurse. I also noticed that we often never see the faces of the other characters, besides those of the Corrigan men. I believe this is done on purpose to emphasize that Jimmy is in fact alone and isolated from the rest of society. This affects everything from his love life and family life to his mental health and overall view on the world.
The great modernity of the Chicago World’s Fair resulted in the isolation of Jimmy’s great-grandfather and it can be assumed that it trickled down into Jimmy’s father isolating himself from Jimmy’s life. This cycle is then broken when his father makes the strange effort to reconnect with him through a letter. Therefore, it can be said that Jimmy’s isolation is the result of technological advancements. The growth of modernity into America can be seen through Ware’s sporadic depiction of Jimmy as a mechanical robot. Ware flashes back and forth from Jimmy doing an action to a robot doing the same exact action in the following scene. It can be inferred that Ware is trying to show them as the same person or thing. Jimmy, therefore, is the product of technology. This isolation from a loving family and society leads to him daydreaming about a life much greater than his, such as that of Superman. However, this only encourages his secluded personality.