ENG 14 1880
March 6, 2010
The city is a place where curiosity drives the senses and a sense of the unknown leaves its occupants slaves to their imaginations. In “The man of the crowd” and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I will explore how these speculative pedestrians are led into a world where their imaginations mixed with a personal sense of justice takes them on an quest for answers. I will show two sides of this circumstance where on one side the spectator is driven by his wonder about the unknown and in his mind takes on the heroic role of his own personal manifested crime drama. The other side I will show is how the spectator also driven by curiosity of the unknown is actually taking on a genuinely heroic role due to the nature of the crimes taking place and his relationship to the people involved.
In “The Man of the Crowd” the spectator is a man who has a curiosity about the dark world behind the nameless crowds that inter-mingle every day on the streets of London and yet still remain anonymous. “At this particular period of the evening I have never before been in a similar situation and the tumultuous sea of human heads filled me, therefore, with a delicious novelty of emotion” (Poe 389). At this point the curiosity of the spectator is peaked with interest encompassing all passerby which would enter his vision and hence his world. As the spectator pondered each different category of character of the crowd, his level of interest would increase. “At first my observations took an abstract and generalizing turn. I looked at the passengers in masses, and thought of them in their aggregate relations” (Poe 389). The more the spectator watched the deeper into his imagination he would dive. “Soon, however, I descended to details, and regarded with minute interest the innumerable varieties of figure, dress, air, gait, visage, and expression of countenance” (Poe 389).
The spectators’ attention to detail mixed with wonder and curiosity further takes a more dark and sinister turn. “Descending in the scale of what is termed gentility, I found darker and deeper themes for speculation” (Poe 391). As a result of the spectators own ways of thinking the crowds become individuals who are harboring individual secrets that would eventually cause his imagination to become a force of exploration and discovery.
With my brow to the glass, I was thus occupied in scrutinizing the mob, when suddenly there came into view a countenance (that of a decrepit old man, some sixty-five or seventy years of age)- a countenance which at once arrested and absorbed my whole attention, on account of the absolute idiosyncrasy of its expression. Anything even remotely resembling that expression I had never seen before. I well remember that my first thought, upon beholding it, was that Retzch, had he viewed it, would have greatly preferred it to his own pictural incarnations of the fiend. (Poe 392)
The spectator’s imagination has put this passing character into the light of the offender and himself into the role of the pursuing investigator. As the manifested fiend trudges along about his business, the spectator as he pursues becomes more and more enveloped into the darkness and detail of the suspected villain and will be taken down a multitude of streets as night traverses into day following the villain’s irregular behavior. “The sun arose while we proceeded, and, when we had once again reached that most thronged mart of the populous town…did I persist in my pursuit of the stranger” (Poe 396).
Being driven by his sense of certainty, the spectator embarks on an endless pursuit of a man that follows no logical way of thinking. The spectator later determines that this pursuit in the end would bear no fruit of justification and satisfaction and finally leads him to project his views on the situation. “This old man, I said at length, “is the genius of deep crime. He refuses to be alone. He is The Man of the Crowd. It will be in vain to follow; for I shall learn no more of him, nor of his deeds” (Poe 396). The investigator has created a hypothetical crime with an imaginative criminal that manifests itself into a great chase. Since the spectator could pursue no more out of frustration from the illogical, he has determined the fiend to be a great mastermind which gives validity to his initial assessment and brings closure to his obsession.
In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde the spectator has genuine means to become the hero of the story through his pursuit of answers to the unexplainable and violent occurrences that are plaguing the streets of London. As these crimes strike wonder and terror in the eyes of the few who have witnessed the mysterious figure committing these atrocities, Utterson, the spectator, is left with nothing but bizarre observations and a shroud of mystery about the offender. “It was a man of the name of Hyde. He is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something downright detestable” (Stevenson 43). The shroud of mystery behind this evil character initiates a search for the truth and drives our hero Mr. Utterson on a dangerous quest for answers.
As the pursuit of Mr. Hyde takes on even more mystery from his constant public absence, Utterson would more and more take on the role of pursuing investigator on an insatiable path of discovery. “It was already bad enough when the name was but a name of which he could learn no more. It was worse when it began to be clothed upon with detestable attributes; and out of the shifting, insubstantial mists that had so long baffled his eye, there leaped up the sudden, definite presentment of a fiend” (Stevenson 46).
More unexplained events like the mysterious letter that read “Not to be opened till the death or disappearance of Dr. Jekyll” further leads Utterson into the realm of the investigator especially since he was so personally involved with all people encompassed by this horrifying and unexplainable chain of events. Until a ray of light illuminates the dark unexplained questions dwelling in Mr. Uttersons mind. “The next day came the news that the murderer has not been overlooked, that the guilt of Hyde was patent to the world, and that the victim was a man high in public estimation” (Stevenson 117). This left no doubt in Utterson’s mind that his intuitions and all evidence pointed in the same direction.
Through the course of events Mr. Utterson would take on many roles that would put him deeper and deeper into the horrific realization that things are not as they seem. Due to the nature of the actual crimes being committed, Mr Utterson has taken on the genuine role of the heroic spectator and has even gone beyond that point and has become an actual investigator in the pursuit of justice. We have seen two different interpretations of heroism depicted, one perceived and driven by a man with a vivid imagination in “The Man of the Crowd” and one who is defined by the extraordinary circumstances which places him in the role of a hero and allows for genuine heroic acts to occur.
Poe, Edgar Allen. The Man of the Crowd. New York: Commuter Library, 1994.
Stevenson, Robert Louis. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. New York: New American Library, 2003.
English 14 1880
May 3, 2010
Rear Window(audio and visual analysis)
Rear Window is a film rich in audio and visual cues to enhance the mood the director is trying to emphasize and display for the viewers through the atmosphere of an urban city. Through sound and corresponding visual scenes the imagination of the viewer can be swayed through a spectrum of emotion ranging from the eeriness of silence, to the calm of repetitious rain drops on a rainy night, or the hurried sounds of the orchestra promoting the feeling of impending danger. These techniques provide for a substitute for the human senses in capturing the feel of reality as we would actually experience it ourselves in related situations.
In an early scene during Rear Window Mrs. Lonely Hearts is having a pretend dinner date accompanied by romantic music creating the atmosphere of a mixture of passion and loneliness. The director uses this choice of music along with the visuals of a set dinner table for two amidst candle light to give the viewers a glimpse into the mindset of Mrs. Lonely Hearts and the isolation and loneliness she is feeling during the scene. Another example of a use of audio to project isolation is during the scene when the music ceases and the camera focuses on a window dramatically as a loud scream is heard and the sound of breaking glass creates suspense and mystery by implying foul play but giving no visuals to confirm the suspicion.
The director uses both light and shadow as a means of visual implication in various scenes throughout the movie all with different meanings of isolation attached. For instance the director uses light for night scenes to highlight the gaze of Jefferies as he watches his neighbors. Each character that comes into focus, the camera would encompass the apartment which would be well lit isolating the character of interest amidst a back drop of an overshadowed building.
The director would use shadow to enhance the characters sense of concealment, for instance when Mr. Thorwald returns after his night excursions and Jefferies and Stella are watching him through the window and realize they can be seen immediately moving back into the shadows to provide cover, or to project a characters dark mood like in the scene when Thorwald is sitting in the shadows smoking displaying his isolation and adding to the characters sense of mystery.
The use of audio and visual In Rear Window displays the different elements of the storyline the director leads its viewers down in developing the isolation of specific characters or events. These tools of cinema enrich the realism of the scenes and further allow the viewer to focus their attention to key themes and moods that shape our imaginations to the mold of the story. Through the use of such audio and visual props cinema can recreate and emphasize human emotion to the extent our imaginations will allow and usually if successful, will draw the same conclusions from different spectators among the audience creating a consensus that reflects the intended mood.
English 14 1880
May 16, 2010
New Beginnings (final essay)
The city represents a place where different dreams are realized by different people and anything imagined seems possible. Where a person’s hopes intermingle with another person’s despair and together they form a small piece of an infinite and diverse story. Whether you are running away from your past as is Holly go Lightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s or you are reinventing yourself as is Bodega in Bodega Dreams, the city provides the anonymity to hide in plain sight and the opportunity to reinvent yourself to the limitations of your imagination. Amidst a population great in numbers and limited in space, the isolation of being one among many can either be a feeling of liberation or a prison from which its captive is enveloped in a revolving storyline from which there is no escape.
Holly go Lightly is a character that is running away from her past and is taking advantage of the cities vastness to position herself as a reinvented person. As does Bodega in Bodega Dreams tries to reinvent himself, but for want of changing himself because of his past instead of trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. These two characters have both formed new identities to take on a role of empowerment and both have used the city to help bury their old selves that have caused them pain in the past. Bodega taking on the role of a mythical Robin Hood on the streets of Harlem, has chosen to continue following his youthful dreams of empowering his race in America but has changed the path in which he achieves these goals.
After losing the love of his life to another man because of his financial shortcomings and after being sent to jail, Bodega realizes that a man with an idea alone and no financial backing is but a voice among many that gets drowned out barely being heard. Bodega adapts these realizations into a new identity that will correct these counterproductive traits and make him more effective for an urban environment. Holly as well has formed a new identity to make her more effective in an urban city by becoming a female that knows how to manipulate men for her financial gain. Also by transforming her appearance and mannerisms Holly has changed from her former country self to a person that resembles the sophisticated women of her childhood magazines.
Holly was drawn to the urban city through the persuasive and enticing imagery of magazines she would study obsessively. It was this exposure to a world that in her mind represented all she ever dreamed life could be, that initiated the metamorphosis and provided the blue print for her new identity. Bodega in contrast is bred from the streets initially and is exposed to the harsh realities of this urban city throughout his life. These experiences for Bodega are the exposure that provided the framework for which he would shape his next identity, an identity that fits his new aspirations in life and that would bring him closer to achieving his goals of success and power.
For Holly the city represented a world of glamour, riches, fame, and excitement that called out to her with open arms. A place filled with adventure and diversity that would accept the new revised her with no questions asked and would solidify her new position in life. For Bodega the city represented oppression and broken promises and was a place that was corrupt and unfair. This was an environment that showed no mercy for the good of heart, an urban jungle that consisted of everyday struggles, despair, and hardships. These ingredients brought about a forceful change in Bodegas personality one that would make him perceive that a new identity was necessary. An identity that was as mysterious and awe inspiring as the city itself and that inspires just as the city inspires.
Both Bodega and Holly believed that the city could provide them with a new beginning in which to make their dreams a realization. Though each character has a very different perception of the city, each has still immersed themselves into roles that are nurtured and reinforced by the urban city. Holly integrating herself into the co-culture of high society within the city has successfully transformed her fantasy into reality by becoming that in which she coveted most, a woman that is worldly in her knowledge of finer things and that is wanted by men of all social statuses. Bodega also achieves his targeted reality by making a name for himself that will take on prophetic recognition when it is said anywhere on the streets. A name that promotes fear, respect, love, admiration, and to him most important then all the rest is loyalty.
The city by its very definition has always been a place for people to go in pursuit of better opportunities and the start of new beginnings. This world is a place alive with the hopes and dreams of a multitude of souls all in search for new identities and new lives. The starting points in which all who wish to achieve their goals set their feet firmly in the ground and truly believe that anything is possible as long as you have the will and determination to pursue it. The city is an idea that takes on many forms and many different meanings for many different people but at the same time represents a solitary phrase for all, “opportunity for change”.
Capote, Truman. Breakfast at Tiffany’s. New York: Vintage Books, 1993.
Quinonez, Ernesto. Bodega Dreams. New York: Vintage Books, 2000.