Monday, October 27, 2014

Jimmy Corrigan and Women

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth is both a complicated and simple read, which is written by Chris Ware. There are multiple stories occurring along with different time periods and multiple uses of symbolism and simplistic words and images except in the “general instructions.” One must pay close attention to each aspect of the instructions and read carefully to comprehend it. What is really shocking in the general instructions and the use of complex words, and the instructions themself are extremely wordy. This contrasts the rest of the comic overall in which it relies on the imagery to tell the story. However what is most alarming is the exam.
         The very first question on the exam is “ You are a. male b. female if b. you may stop. Put down booklet. All others continue.” At first one might and probably is offended by this statement. However the rest of the exam, and the initial question reveal an important feature about the comic. Further questions ask about relationship with ones mother, and the opposite sex, meaning women because they cannot take the exam. These questions never have a positive answer, whether the opposite sex makes them feel uncomfortable to feeling appalled by them. For example, number six is, “The presence of members of the opposite and/or attractive sex makes you feel… a. weird b. awful c. terrified d. hopeless e. like killing yourself.”  There is an obvious rejection of women in the general instructions. It is also important that except for question number one the exam never says the words women or female. It is as if the word or recognition of women is so appalling the writer cannot even say or write the word.
 What is unknown though before reading the comic is that the general instructions elude to many characteristics the comic presents. The rejection and feeling disgusted with women is one of these features. During the actual story of the comic Jimmy’s mother is portrayed as overbearing and is so controlling over him he has problems forming relationships and showing his emotions. The way Jimmy is portrayed, as a dysfunctional middle-aged man who works in a cubical. It is important to note that he has an absentee father but he is the way he is because of how his mother raised him. Without even getting to the meat of the story, Jimmy turned out the way he is because an overbearing, single mother raises him.
While his mother is a example of why Jimmy is the way he is, and the portrayal of her supports the fact that there is a rejection of women, and a rejection of women being the head of the household, Ware uses symbolism to show this as well. Specifically the symbolic use of peaches in the comic. While there are many other fruits Ware could have used he chose a peach. They are usually soft, tender, fuzzy, easily bruised, and can be messy, which are all traits on how the US society sees women. Many don’t see women as strong, which relates to peaches being easily bruised, women are complicated with their emotions which relates to being messy and soft, tender and fuzzy relates to the warmth and motherly figure of a women.
Therefore looking at peaches as women in this comic the first of many appearances is on page fifteen. Jimmy is fantasizing about being with Peggy, his coworker. He is dreaming about growing a peach tree with her, and in this fantasy he has his head between her knees, as she strokes his hair. The frame following he is holding his mail container filled with peaches. This is extremely important because throughout the comic one sees how infatuated Jimmy is with her. His desire for her and other women are conveyed very differently from other male characters. Peggy can be rude and even mean to Jimmy, which is also interesting to note because he is crazy about her. In his fantasy the fact he wants to grow a peach tree grove with her resembles that he wants an intimate relationship with her. A tree resembles growth, and deep roots, so it is obvious it is not just a crush or surface attraction to Peggy. He has deep feelings for her. Also their body language in his fantasy is very intimate and sexualized, supporting that these peaches are the symbol that he wants an intimate relationship with a woman.

Peaches are then seen throughout the comic, relating or always present when there is an interaction or talk about women. Not only did the general instructions allude to the views of women in the comic but Jimmy’s infatuation and struggles with women are also presented through the symbolism of the peach.


  1. I think you have a very good idea of connecting the exam (specifically the first question) to the way women are thought of throughout the entire story. However, the your first paragraph doesn't reference this at all and I cannot find a thesis in it. Your second paragraph does a good job of emphasizing the parts of the exam that are important in the role of women, but it still fails to say exactly what that view of women is. One sentence in the second paragraph states, "However the rest of the exam, and the initial question reveal an important feature about the comic." But I don't see what they reveal until later in the essay.
    In the third paragraph you start to discuss some interesting points about women, with lines like "The rejection and feeling disgusted with women is one of these features." And you begin to discuss how peaches symbolize women. I see some contradictions though. You say that there is an overall disgust of women because of Jimmy's mom's affect on him. And then that peaches represent women. But the first time peaches are used in his fantasy with Peggy is a happy moment? Jimmy is fantasizing about the good life the peaches provide him, so that seems contradicting to the disgust of women you mention. It seems that instead the peaches are a symbol of good.
    Overall, I think you have some good examples of how the instructions relate to the way women are viewed in the story and how those views are continued throughout the story. But, I can't see a real thesis and I think that would really help the ideas align better.

  2. The bizarre wordiness of the introduction *is* important. So is the sexism. I wonder if you can relate them? If not, probably you could have jumped more directly into the sexism.

    “It is as if the word or recognition of women is so appalling the writer cannot even say or write the word.” -- this is well put.

    “Without even getting to the meat of the story, Jimmy turned out the way he is because an overbearing, single mother raises him.” -- obviously this is a very plausible reading, but I think there’s a danger of oversimplifying. Why is she single? Why is she overbearing? Why do those characteristics of his mother define him so totally? I guess I think you’re short-circuiting past some interesting questions.

    Re: peaches -- peaches are also a common simple of sex, although maybe in this book, given Jimmy’s problems, a symbol of sex must also therefore be a symbol of women. In other words, I think you’re right, but maybe there’s more to it, too. I think how you distinguish between what the peach *tree* means and what the peach itself means is very smart. Jimmy is desperate for the roots and the tree (a loving, enduring relationship), not simply for the fruit (sex).

    Overall: You don’t make a good connection between the quiz and the peaches. If you had made that connection convincingly (by exploring the relationship between Jimmy’s extreme anxiety about and even feelings of revulsion towards women, and his powerful desire not just for the peach but for the tree), this essay would have been outstanding. As it stands, you have the beginnings of two reasonable essays, which could have used a stronger focus on the details of the book.