Last week during class we had talked about the possibility of Jimmy Corrigan being about mental illness. As I was reading the first part of the graphic novel, I had not thought about mental illness as a possible theme, but as I read through the second half, I was more aware of it. I went back to the first part of the novel and I remembered the part where Jimmy goes to sleep and dreams he injures his leg and then wakes up and believes he is actually hurt. When I read this the first time I really was not sure what to think; had he actually hurt his leg in his sleep somehow, or was it all imaginary? If we think that Jimmy may suffer from a mental illness, his believing his leg is injured makes a lot more sense. In fact, most of the novel makes more sense. It almost seems as if Ware has written the novel so that the readers feel as though they are in the mind of someone with a mental illness. The novel jumps around from story to story and place to place, and to most of us, this just does not seem to make sense. Perhaps Ware's intention was to make readers feel as though they are suffering from a similar condition as Jimmy. Additionally, if we accept that Jimmy Corrigan could be about mental illness in the modern world, does this change how we view the icons of modernity thoughout the story (aka McDonald's)? If so, how? Also, does it change the way we view Jimmy as a representation of masculinity?
While reading the novel, I noticed a few symbols that were carried across the the story, part of both Jimmy's story in the 1980s and his grandfather's in the 1890s. First, the red songbird is depicted over and over, even the subject of Jimmy's fantasies from time to time. At one point in the first half of the book Jimmy sits looking at it from the doctor's office, imagining himself flying with it through the air, free, before it hits the window and he is brought back to reality. A symbol of freedom, the bird even is free from the constraints of time, as it sits on a branch on the first few pages of the novel, unmoving as time marches on and Jimmy's childhood home slips into disrepair.A second reoccurring symbol is more difficult to interpret. Peaches appear over and over in the book: paintings on walls, exhibits at the World's Fair, prominent in the fruit basket Jimmy brings on his trip. Why? Perhaps it is something that remains consistent from the past to the present, left untouched by the progress of civilization, but why peaches specifically? I think it's an interesting question to consider, and certainly an interesting creative choice by Ware to instill such an ordinary object with significance.
Ware’s title choice still confuses me. Why is Jimmy Corrigan the smartest kid on earth? He doesn’t seem to be bright in any particular way. The only thing I can think of is maybe the reference to a mental illness as we discussed in class. Jimmy is a grown adult, yet he seems to be stuck in a child’s mind. I also found it interesting that Ware gave Jimmy a typical superhero title. Similar to being “The Strongest Man on Earth,” Jimmy is a superhero because he has the superior power of being smart. Coincidentally, Jimmy is seen wearing a Superman sweater in the second half of the book. The very last page also shows Jimmy as Superman, carrying off his damsel in distress, Tammy. There were several other icons that I noticed throughout the second half of the book such as Dairy Queen, other restaurants and product labels.
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The more I read Ware's "Jimmy Corrigan..." the more it becomes clear to me that Jimmy is not literally the smart kid, nor is he the smartest kid. He is merely a socially awkward member of a society that he does not fit into. There is Jimmy Corrigan, and there is the Smartest kid on Earth; that is of course the Jimmy of Jimmy's fantasies, the Jimmy of Jimmy's dreams. This separation is hinted at in the formatting of the title. "Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth". With this separation in mind, the title is best viewed as two characters, separated by the colon. This, to me, is a possible and very likely explanation for Jimmy Corrigan AND the Smartest Kid on Earth.
While reading the second half of Jimmy Corrigan, I kept trying to figure out why this kid was supposed to be the smartest kid on earth. Throughout the whole book there are some pages with the title, “Jimmy Corrigan The smartest Kid on Earth”, repeated at very random times with seemingly arbitrary illustrations around a center picture. One in particular, in the second half, shows an illustration of child’s head with Jimmy and his father climbing out of opposite sides of its mouth. They both look like they are trying as hard as they can to get away from one another. Surrounding this illustration is Jimmy sitting on the toilet going to the bathroom. I have no idea what Ware is trying to convey here and why he surrounded the illustration with this scene. My question is, why would a page stating that Jimmy Corrigan is the smartest kid on earth, also have the rest of the page filled with a scene of him going to the bathroom?
As I read the second half of Jimmy Corrigan, I had many questions about why Ware ended the story the way he did. One main question was why he killed off Jimmy’s father? It seems pointless to make so much of the story about Jimmy meeting his father, just to have him die and nothing changes between them. Jimmy meets his sister, but it is clear from her reaction with the death of her father that she doesn't want anything to do with Jimmy. Ware had a purpose in having Jimmy’s father, and I’m curious as to what that purpose is. He had the choice of how he wanted their relationship to end and he chose to make death (a permanent act) the end of their relationship, rather than giving any hope for a future relationship.
There is one thing I noticed in the second half of the book that kind of stuck out to me. In Jimmy's grandfather's story there was a significant change in the narration. In the entire fist half as well as a chunk of this section, the narration is told in the third person. "the boy hits his knee" etc. But then there is a change to the first person where old Jimmy is narrating his own life. There is a pause in the narration between the students forming a flag and the visit to his friend's house, and when the narration returns it is suddenly a first person account. What changes during this period? Jimmy is given a lead horse, he goes home and feeds his own horse, he eats dinner with his father, imagines shooting his father and building his own life in the wilderness, has a nightmare, goes back to school and a bunch of kids get invited over to make lead toys, and then he meets the family of the boy. I think that last event is what really set it off. Yes he is shown kindness before, and yes he does imagine running from his father, but those seem like the kinds of things that just have always happened from time to time. Kindness was only ever temporary and rebelling against his father was just a fantasy. Until this point I don't think he's witnessed a normal, unabusive family. The narration returns specifically to show the importance of that moment, and the change in narration further emphasizes it. It begins, "At the time I think I understood little of that afternoon." It seems that, to old Jimmy, this may have been the most important moment of his story.
As I have read Jimmy Corrigan I have been confused as to why Ware made Jimmy the way he is in appearance. He is made to look like an old man but he is only supposed to be 36. He is young enough to have both a father and a grandfather who are still alive, so his physical characteristics don't make sense with his age. We talked in class about his appearance and how he lacks unique characteristics, and that Ware made him into something like an "amorphous blob". I understand how this can symbolize how he is out of touch with the world and how he doesn't really fit in, but making him look like an old man seems to serve a different purpose to me and I can't really figure it out. Maybe it is just to reinforce that idea that Jimmy doesn't relate to this world, or maybe Ware made him look like this because it is ironic since he didn't mature enough to have normal relationships?
As I looked more into the title Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, I think it displays some irony. There is nothing outstanding about him, or that is "wow" worthy considering his intelligence. He is actually not bright and is extremely socially awkward. As I thought more about our class discussion, and reading the rest of the comic, it becomes more apparent that he may have a mental illness. There are blurred lines between what is reality and what is a dream, which can be confusing but I think the title may connect to this theme of mental illness. Maybe the title is referring to Jimmy's lack of knowledge knowing what is and what is not reality.
In the beginning of the second section of the reading, Jimmy's dad tries to have a heart to heart with Jimmy and their encounter is rather interesting. Jimmy appears more pained to be sitting with and listening to his dad than he was when he was previously hit by the truck. He looks sweaty, panicked, and even mentally disturbed through the entire encounter. He looks even more uncomfortable when his father brings up the idea of him meeting his daughter. It is also interesting that Jimmy's father keeps calling him James throughout this scene. Later on when Jimmy is in his father's room, he looks at a photograph and sees his half sister. He seems to be upset by this, again, which is shown by him laying down on his father's bed. Is the race of his half sister a source of his discomfort or is it merely the fact that his mother chooses to sleep with multiple men with or without Jimmy's knowledge?
The second half of the book has a great deal of symmetry. It seems like Ware is displaying an obsession for that mentality. Jimmy's personality and how the book is setup reminds me of the movie 23 with Jim Carrey. In the movie the obsession of the number 23 couldn't be erased from his mind. If someone said the axis of the earth is 23.5 degrees, he would respond the number 5 is merely 2 plus 3. The book has different levels to where the symmetry exist. If it is not shown in one aspect, the reader will find a way to make it visible. This hints toward something wrong with Jimmy's mental processes. The white circles as eyes and his signature blank stare seems like he had a lobotomy. I found it interesting that the size that Jimmy is depicted sometimes reflects how he feels. Jimmy went from being in a huge bed, to being very tiny by his mother's bed, to (figuratively or literally) sleeping under the table. It is strange why Ware meshes this together to make it hard on the reader.
I'm not sure why the title of this book is the way it is. Jimmy does not visibly show any signs of being the smartest kid on earth. In fact most of the story is about the 36 year old man who cannot make eye contact with pretty much anybody. Possibly the distinction that Jimmy Corrigan is the smartest kid on earth is key to the understanding of Jimmy. He must wish to still be a child, evident in his constant daydreaming. Of course daydreaming is not a bad thing for adults to do, yet to the extent that Jimmy does is almost an obsession. Is it that he wishes he could change his childhood to be the smartest? Wants to relive it? The emergence of his father and the reminders that to somebody his father was the "number 1 dad"? Much of this could probably be answered by looking into Chris Ware's life itself, as his father appeared late in his life for a brief flash and died. This book has so many layers to it, that it is nearly impossible to dissect fully after one reading.
Jimmy Corrigan seems to get progressively darker over the course of the story, at least to me. It might be because, initially, I found Jimmy to be a mildly lovable character who, although troubled, was easy to relate to in that he went through struggles that played to my emotions. As the story progressed, it seemed that my excitement decreased; I realized he was not, in fact, the whimsical "smartest kid on earth". Instead, Jimmy struggled with everyday social interactions, and it never seemed to me that things were getting "better" for him. I'm hoping that, through discussion, my feelings on the book can be changed, because I would like to appreciate the character of Jimmy more than I currently do.