Blog Post 14: The Last Blog Post on Earth

Hi everyone,

Again, really nice job in our draft critiques today. As I mentioned at the end of class, here’s a final thread of the semester, for some open-ended thinking about the last section of Jimmy Corrigan. There’s lots to be said here about some of the things that we’ve traced throughout the text — questions of history, representation, race, form, space, time, memory, and the city, to name just a few — as well throughout the course. So feel free to raise anything that seems important and worth discussing to you in this section through some attentive close reading, and we’ll spend some time Friday thinking about this section and how it fits into our thinking over the semester.

Reminder (slightly different from our usual blog schedule): your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by midnight on Thursday, December 8th. 

 

 

16 thoughts on “Blog Post 14: The Last Blog Post on Earth

  1. Jimmy Corrigan Smartest Kid on Earth has an unsurprisingly depressing ending. It concludes with the idea that no one really cares about Jimmy not even his own mother. For virtually the whole novel Jimmy is stressed about his mother’s constant phone calls and imminent anger about his visit with his father. This is why it is most heartbreaking that he returns home to find his mother engaged! Jimmy’s mother was supposed to be the one person he could always rely on. She didn’t even bother to tell him that she was in a relationship. It’s just another example of how everyone is out for their own self interests. This just introduces another male figure into Jimmy’s life who is bound to disappoint. However, There is a glimmer of hope at the very end of the novel in the form of the red headed woman. I hope that she is a symbol of innocence, although she could also be a morbid reminder of how people are when they start working those kinds of jobs and how they end (not so subtle that she has taken the desk of the man who committed suicide). Ultimately Jimmy proves himself to not only be nervous and completely lacking in self- confidence but also a coward. I was greatly disappointed at how Jimmy ran away after finding out about his father’s death. With her father dead Amy now has no one; Jimmy was her last family member and he abandoned her in her time of need, showing that he is capable of doing exactly what his father did to him. Well that is a bit extreme given that he just met her and isn’t her father but still one would think Jimmy would want to be there for someone and foster a brother sister relationship. Even though it becomes evident that Jimmy in fact has some sexual feelings toward Amy that are revealed in his bizarre apocalyptic fantasies. Ware portrays Jimmy’s fantasies about Amy to further emphasize the inherent racism of white people and the sexualization of women of color by white men. I found this section to be particularly revealing about the Corrigan men’s attitudes toward people of color and particularly black women. For instance Ware casts black women in the stereotypical caregiver role in two instances. First there is the maid and then there is Amy who seems to play a maternal role for both Jimmy and her own father and later becomes a literal caregiver in a nursing home. In both instances the women’s care and nurturing is repaid with abandonment, thus portraying the way white people are often exploitative of people of color.

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  2. What struck me most about this last passage of Jimmy Corrigan was the manner in which every event, or topic, or theme, etc. was brought full circle. For instance, Jimmy’s life was brought full circle in the sense that we still see him alone by the end of the story; he goes back to having no father, or any family connection besides the frequent calls from his mom.
    Additionally, the theme of family is demonstrated cyclically by the family tree diagrams presented at the end of the book. After Amy realizes that Jimmy has left, we see a brief timeline depicting how Amy’s great-great grandmother was the maid who had William Corrigan’s baby, making her a genuine biological relative of Jimmy’s. The motif of family lineage and history is not only repeated through the visuals of the diagrams, but also by the connection the characters have to each other.
    The idea of the story and the character’s lives coming full circle is also shown in the epilogue scene of Amy. She is seen working overtime at a hospital, caring for elderly patients and logging their times of death. I find this inclusion interesting, because she previously remarks to Jimmy “I hate this hospital” while they are waiting to see their dad; having now experienced losing both her parents in the same hospital, one would expect her to stay as far away from hospitals and death as possible, and yet she becomes a nurse in the wake of losing her father. She seems to be trapped in the same way that Jimmy is trapped, unable to escape the routine and humdrum of their lives despite the constant tragedies from which they suffer.
    A repetition which I find even more sinister is the detail on the “The End” splash page, where a tiny picture of Superman carrying Jimmy is visible. This Superman is dressed exactly like the one who jumped to his death outside Jimmy’s window; since shortly before the ending splash page, Jimmy imagines himself jumping from the same roof, I believe that this final image is meant to symbolize Jimmy following in the footsteps of this unnamed Superman and committing suicide, as shown by the Superman flying him away in the snowstorm.

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  3. Something that struck me about the ending of Jimmy Corrigan was the repetition of place and how it accentuates the fact that the story starts in the same places it begins, rendering the plot one big circle. One page that stands out to me the most here is when Jimmy exits the train station back in Chicago in the snow. The left page shows two panels of Jimmy standing at a street corner and looking down and then up at the skyscraper above him, and the right page shows the same image twice: the top of the skyscraper he is looking up at, which is presumably the building in which he works. We’ve seen this street corner before, many times, in fact. It is the building that the man dressed as Superman jumps from in the beginning, it is the corner we see destroyed in the Chicago fires, and it is the corner we see Jimmy’s grandfather participating in the “human flag” at. This repetition of place ties different times of the story (long-term and short-term) together, creating a sense of familiarity and consistency that accentuates the importance of setting, especially urban setting, in this work.

    Even though it is snowing in this scene, the building and panels look familiar to us from the beginning of the work; it takes slightly more effort to recognize them in scenes that take place a hundred years previously. This is like Ware saying to us, “you’re back, back in a time that’s familiar to you, back in a time that makes sense again,” which is definitely reflective of the way Jimmy is likely feeling upon his return to Chicago. It’s like returning home after a trip that you feel changed you in some way; returning to a world in which no one else has seemed to changed is always unsettling and uncomfortable, and you feel out of touch with everything for at least a few days after. When Ware shows us this familiar street corner, not only is he bringing us back to the beginning of the story, he is drawing attention to everything that has happened since we’ve been here last, and thus since Jimmy has been here last, as well.

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  4. I found the ending of Jimmy Corrigan Smartest Kid on Earth interesting because honestly, I couldn’t picture a better ending. It was a mix of historical family reference, answering some questions, introducing hope and the discomfort we feel from Jimmy’s personality and tough luck. I actually enjoyed the ending more than the process of reading the work itself. The ending also introduced feelings of familiarity and fiction. Some parts of Jimmy’s life seem so outrageous and some so identifiable (uncomfortable family moments anyone?). I was also happy to see Jimmy with someone he could identify with a little instead of feel responsible for. Both Amy and Jimmy were insecure about meeting each other. Jimmy also meets his grandfather, who looks so much like Jimmy, yet they did not form a relationship. Jimmy’s grandfather did seem to recognize and understand Jimmy subtly.

    The contrast between Jimmy and his grandfather were interesting. We only got Jimmy’s grandfather’s childhood, so we do not know what he is like as an adult. He also raises a very womanizing and domineering son who does not seem to be like himself. That gap is interesting though, because Jimmy is an adult but sees the world like his grandfather as a child, except in a more exaggerated manner. Jimmy’s grandfather also seemed to have reason to be nervous, his father and the strict expectations of his life, not making many friends in school. We do not know why Jimmy is the way he is. Jimmy seems to be searching for a paternal and maternal presence, yet he is an adult. He is always nervous, and feels inadequate. I still struggle to see how this ties into the entirety of the story. I do see how their lives play into the urbanization of Chicago, being helpless as the city grows and moves at a fast pace. The changes in Chicago reflect them feeling left behind and alone.

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  5. While reading Jimmy Corrigan, I found majority of the book frustrating as its sole purpose is to get the reader to really hone in on the images… over and over… re-read and re-read just to merely comprehend the full story. The ending was somewhat better than majority of the book as the reader is finally given a little clarity. There is quite a bit of history in the last chunk while the reader simultaneously tries to understand the plot of Jimmy Corrigan’s past and present life and also his grandfather and great grandfathers past, constantly jumping back and forth between them. The comparison between Jimmy’s life and some of the past men of his family is interesting. I found it funny when Jimmy met his grandfather, and they looked so much alike, but are actually very very different. It makes you wonder why Jimmy seems to be the only one in his family that cannot really grow up and mature properly, especially since the other men in his family don’t seem to face the same social issues that Jimmy does, although it’s not like the other men are any better. While the other men in his family aren’t that great, they are still able to comprehend social situations etc. Jimmy’s anxiety never seems to let up, even at the end, we seem him the way we’ve seen him throughout the entire book. Although the new redheaded character at the end makes you harbor a little hope for Jimmy, wondering if his mind will mature more with the more social interaction he involves himself in. But ultimately, you finish the book feeling the same way you did as when you started it; confused, unfulfilled, similar to the emotions Jimmy always seems to be feeling. I wonder if that was the authors intent? To almost put you in Jimmy’s shoes. The book has the probably the only real climax in the story at the end with the death of Jimmy’s father but then it snaps you back to reality within the book; an unfulfilled reality. I don’t enjoy feeling like Jimmy.

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  6. What caught my eye in the last section of Jimmy Corrigan was the scene where Amy shows Jimmy a collection of old family photos. Many of the graphic narratives we have this semester have included scenes featuring photos; however it is interesting that in Jimmy Corrigan the photos are entirely fictional and are not connected to real people outside of the narrative(as far as I know) like the photos of Maus or Fun Home are.

    What I found intriguing in this scene was the sequence of photos shown to Jimmy by Amy. The Narrative of Jimmy Corrigan has not been sequential and instead has jumped between characters, time periods, and even realities. Amy also follows this non sequential structure as she shows Jimmy the photos of his family out of order. The photos show switch between color and black and white, Jimmy’s parents and grandparents. In addition to the sequence of photos shown, the similarities between the different generations of Corrigan men becomes strikingly apparent and Amy even points out to Jimmy his resemblance to his father while looking at an old picture of Jimmy (senior) in uniform. These photos not only pout out the resemblance between the Corrigan men (which can act as a link between all three of them), but also shows Jimmy what his life could have been like if his father had been apart of his life. Jimmy seems uncomfortable while looking at these pictures and his furrowed eyebrows and his lack of response to Amy’s comments while looking at the photos could be evidence of his discomfort. Furthermore, simply the process of looking at old family photos, of a family you have little connection to and no positive experiences with, next to your newly met sister, seems like an overwhelming and uncomfortable experience for Jimmy to go through, especially based off his previous interactions with people. The photo of Amy and Jimmy’s dad having Christmas especially stood out as a potentially difficult photo for Jimmy to process; Jimmy’s dad’s arm affectionately draped over Amy’s shoulder, her hand holding a gift from him and her mother (I’m assuming?) taking the picture. Jimmy was not able to experience a family holiday like that as a child and to seeing his father spend Christmas with Amy, after abandoning him might bring feelings of deficiency or even anger towards Amy. However, despite Jimmy’s initial discomfort with Amy, her display of personal family photos and her successful relationship with Jimmy’s father (compared to Jimmy’s weak relationship), this interaction leads to Jimmy forming a connection with her and subsequently imagining a future life with her.

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  7. What was most significant in this part of the book was actually Jimmy’s growth, despite him still being awkward and unsure. When Jimmy first meets his half sister Amy, they have to come together over the fact of their father being in the hospital. Jimmy’s growth is more present in the panels where he opens up and starts crying in front of Amy and their grandfather. During Jimmy’s breakdown, he finally just admitted his desire for acceptance and wanting to fit in, like all people in the world want as well. The panel where he is crying and he has his hand over his head with tears rolling down his face, crying and saying “I-I-..I-I always mess everything up… I-I…I-I just want people to li-i-ike…” was very profound because it highlights just how raw, honest pain Jimmy is expressing. It’s also a difficult thing to admit to the family he feels so internally torn about because on one hand, he wants to be close with them and mend their relationship as if the previous years without their presence didn’t matter. But on the other hand, it is very apparent there is some sort of block or wall that prevents him connecting with almost all people, and in particular, his unfamiliar family.

    Perhaps he has reached a breaking point, tired of his same old limitations and being perceived as the unwanted one, which is why he has finally opened up so much. What is most bittersweet and touching about these panels, is that while he is opening up, he is wearing a superman sweatshirt. This seems to be signifying the measurement of his growth and has started to become the person he has always fantasized about, used as a crutch, and look up to. It is being used as a symbol of how far he has come; flying out on his own to meet his father and get to where he is now took a big leap for him, and is maybe finally recognizing that leap he took and stepped into the role of a superman. Of course he still has his issues and the ending is no surprise not a happy one, but this seems to be a moment of progress and positivity in an otherwise depressing narrative.

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  8. This last section of Jimmy Corrigan is where the graphic novel “gets real,” so to speak. There is much more at stake in these final pages than anywhere else in the book, and the text is much more grounded in the immediate (though there are still plenty of instances of time hopping, inner thoughts, and a lovely family tree for Amy). Amy continues to be one of the few (only?) characters who seems . . . well adjusted. It has become clear that perhaps part of the reason that every other woman in the text was portrayed as so distant and/or outlandish was so that Amy would seem even more grounded by comparison. Even though he makes progress and is able to sort of talk to Amy like she’s a person, Jimmy still slips into his old ways regarding women. There is a panel solely dedicated to Amy’s chest, and he imagines a rather odd sequence in which they are the only two people left on Earth and are thus forced to repopulate. It is notable that he saves her from death in this daydream.
    Many aspects of the text that we’ve already discussed, such as the importance of scenery panels, character’s thoughts, as well as gender and race relations, continue to be relevant in this final section. Though still unsure what to make of it, I’m interested in the ways in which the text sets Jimmy up as needing to be saved and cared for by women. All of his fantasies about random ladies he meets take a much more serious tone when placed in the context of the last few pages, in which he imagines suicide. However, this train of thought is interrupted by Tammy, the new employee who strikes up a conversation with him. Jimmy has been longing for a real connection with a woman, any woman, from the start of the text. For Tammy to come at a time like this doesn’t seem like a coincidence; Ware sets up his protagonist as somewhat pitiful. The superman sweatshirt creates such a cognitive dissonance when Jimmy wears it due to the fact that he’s so unlike any classic superhero . . . instead, it gives off a childish vibe (as expressed by the doctor) and is reminiscent of the superhero suicide at the start of the text. Jimmy’s own suicidal ideas at the end of the narrative reflects this, and juxtaposes the figure who needs to be saved (Jimmy) with the figure that does the saving (superhero). All in all, while I would argue that Jimmy grows as a character, or at the very least that the readers learn more about him emotionally, we leave Jimmy worse than he was.

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  9. One thing that stood out to me the most is how Ware uses paradox to convey racial difference in The Smartest Kid on Earth. Jimmy and Amy are both disconnected from their roots, as Jimmy grew up fatherless and Amy is an adopted child. However, Jimmy makes attempts to look for connection while Amy, who has no interest in looking for her roots, is not concern to discover her past at all. When Amy tells Jimmy that she does not wish to meet her birth mother, he is shocked. In positioning her as secure, despite her “mysterious” ancestry, Ware falls into myths of blackness as a secure signifier and whiteness, on the other hand, as unstable. For instance, the whole time they are at the hospital in the waiting room area, Jimmy is depicted as weak and naïve through he looks like a child who cannot handle stress through his postures and facial expressions, while Amy is depicted as in control and calm. Moreover, Amy places protective coverings on Jimmy’s bandaged foot further emphasizes their roles as racially defined and positions Amy, a woman of color, as caretaker to white men.

    Another thing I noticed is the postscript at the end, it’s titled Corrigenda and he describes it as “a list of errors with their corrections in a book”. A major takeaway of this text for me is that constructing one’s identity is an ongoing process that requires making mistakes and learning from them, and the Corrigenda coveys that identity is not fixed and perhaps we will never find out our identity. As readers, we are piecing together Jimmy Corrigan’s life from bits and pieces throughout the text and we are bound to make mistakes and assumptions that might not be accurate, but at the same time we are also learning more about him and seeing him grow along the way.

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  10. Something I found interesting about the end section of Jimmy Corrigan was the ambiguity of age and of maturity. We talked about this in class a bit, but I find it interesting how Jimmy is portrayed as all different ages depending on the situation and on who he’s around. For example, when Amy and Jimmy are in the hospital, there is a segment where Jimmy seems to be talk to his mother. In these scenes, Jimmy shifts from his own age to a child. This seems to represent the way Jimmy’s mother still sees him as a child, and also that Jimmy feels juvenile and small when he is around his mother. Jimmy’s stunted self-image seems to stem from him never being seen as an adult, by his mother especially. Jimmy is also treated as a child by many of the other adults in the book. For example, when he is in the hospital and he starts to look pale, the doctor tells him to put his head between his knees, and he calls him a son, saying “Hey son are you okay?” The tendency of adults to treat Jimmy as much younger than he is seems to perpetuate the unease the character Jimmy gives the reader. We feel uncomfortable and upset by his lack of competence in social situations, and it generates a feeling of tension. Jimmy also struggles to connect with Amy and to talk to her about basic things, such as his favorite movies and other interests, thus further emphasizing his stunted age and social immaturity.

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  11. Despite a small vestige of hope at the very end of the book, Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth leaves the reader with a deeply tragic sense of alienation and unhappiness. I would particularly like to examine the icon of the superhero in the story, who, it seems, can be seen as having several symbolic meanings that all connect to this sense of isolation and sorrow. The most obvious, I suppose, is as an outlet for Jimmy’s lofty and unfulfillable fantasies; he stands as a figure who is so unreachable to the average man — and especially someone so woefully average and forgettable like Jimmy — and thus populates Jimmy’s flights of fancy. Superman may also be seen as a representation of fatherly absence. There are many sequences in the book during which Jimmy longs for a fatherly figure in the guise of a superhero to save him. Such an implication is made several times throughout the book, such as in the beginning sequence when “Superman” comes home with his mom, when he is hit by the truck, and the superhero figure briefly appears before him, and at the end of the book, when he stares at the crumpled Superman shirt and contemplates his dead father. Ware has admitted that the “daddy problems” in the book were somewhat autobiographical, and inspired by his own upbringing in the absence of a father (whom he later met during his adulthood, and felt very uncomfortable with). This, intertwined with his comic book influences, culminates in a work that explores the most ironic and tragic aspects of the superhero symbol. At the end of the book, Jimmy contemplates suicide in a way that is parallel to his hero’s pathetic death in the striking two-panel sequence at the beginning of the book (The book is cyclical, the end strongly reminiscent of the beginning). He imagines himself on ledge of the very same building, about to jump off. It perhaps suggests that Jimmy’s death would be similar: he is a lonely, forgettable figure, full of silly romantic fantasies, who longs to be special and to be appreciated by others. Just as the superman character was just a regular man in a costume, unable to perform amazing feats of strength and flight — so too is Jimmy, who can never really be “the smartest kid on Earth.” The book certainly addresses the traditional comic book icon of the superhero in a way that turns it on its head, offering a story of a man who is far from super, and longing for the kind of heroic father who he can never have.

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  12. One of the themes that is further developed in the last section of Jimmy Corrigan is that of family and cyclicality. As we find out from the second family tree, Amy is not only legally but also biologically related to Jimmy, as a distant cousin. This ties up some loose ends regarding her familial origin very cleanly, and in an improbable manner, to Jimmy’s own family. In discussion with Caile and Magden they mentioned that nothing significant in the book really comes from without the Corrigan family, and that this creates a further isolated sense of Jimmy’s existence. I think that it also presents readers with some deeper cosmological questions; if Jimmy’s family is an ouroboros, a world unto itself that recreates itself, what does that mean for the rest of the universe of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth? This reincarnation might not seem to belong in a “realistic” universe as many see it, though one could certainly point to Buddhism and Hinduism as ideological systems in which that would fit in with the nature of the universe. From another perspective, however, this seems to trouble a modern conventional disconnect between the mundane and the spiritual. It often seems easier to think of the extraordinary as supernatural and suggestive of a need for a cosmology that goes beyond nature alone, whereas the everyday can be understood in a secular manner with little trouble. In Jimmy Corrigan, however, the commonplace is possibly the result of intricate workings of fate or reincarnation.

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  13. I found reading Jimmy Corrigan to be a sometimes confusing and unusual but ultimately very fulfilling experience. I especially enjoyed the way it weaves together lives from different Corrigan generations, drawing parallels that help explain to readers the motivation and history of each character. The parallels between Jimmy and his grandfather are especially strong. They are both what you might call in Yiddish a “schlimazel”, an awkward and socially inept person who is prone to terrible luck. The whole story has an intense sense of loneliness and isolation, especially in regard to these two characters, and I can’t help feeling that it is really a shame they didn’t get to have more of an interaction, as I think this could have provided both of them with the rare moment of true human connection they seem to be missing.

    However, the most significant interaction they have is when grandpa Corrigan claims that his son (Jimmy’s father) is foolish for not having contacted Jimmy earlier. It almost seems that even though Jimmy’ s father is Grandpa Corrigan’s son, he is able to see the parallels between him and his own father, and is perhaps transferring some of his own unresolved feelings for his father onto his son. Another thing that I thought was interesting was Grandpa Corrigan’s cynicism and apparent racial insensitivity. It is difficult to reconcile him with the vulnerable but imaginative little boy who we read about in the other sections of the book. Of course, these changes make a good deal of sense. He is now an adult, and, especially given all the terrible things that had happened to him in his childhood, would not be expected to maintain his innocence and his sense of hope and wonder. Seeing the elderly version of James Corrigan makes me wonder how Jimmy will c

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  14. I was very interested in the pictorial absence of Jimmy’s mother. She is ever present in the book, like when she hounds Jimmy to attend Thanksgiving dinner or when Jimmy tries to call her in a panic at a diner with his father. However these interactions are over the phone and we never really get to “see” Jimmy’s mother. I didn’t really notice until the section where Amy and Jimmy are looking through old photos of their father. In the picture with Jimmy’s father and mother, Amy’s speech balloon obscures Jimmy’s mother’s face.
    This same pattern occurs when Jimmy visits his mother in Sunnyvale Courts at the end. Once again, her face is obscured by Mr. Johnson holding a glass and, later, Jimmy’s crutch. Finally, at the end her face is finally revealed in panel where she addresses Jimmy after he gets food from the Thanksgiving buffet. I was initially puzzled that the reveal of his mother’s face was handled so inconspicuously. The book had established a clear pattern, and his mother’s face is finally revealed in a tiny drawing that only happens once. It is really easy to miss. It really made me question whether this pattern was as important as I thought it was. I feel now that it is important, and I think it plays into the larger themes of reality vs imagination. Without her face, Jimmy’s mother only exists in our imaginations because all of our information comes from conversation and hearsay rather than concrete depictions. Then the end happens and we get one small glimpse of reality. It’s understated but its powerful because it downplays our expectations much like Jimmy’s expectations are dashed in the end. He loses his mom to another man and watches another person happily fall in love. It is a grounding moment that mirrors Jimmy’s own despair.

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  15. (Sorry I forgot to write this until this morning!)

    Since our peer critique on Wednesday, I’ve been thinking a lot about a question we’ve probably touched on in class discussion before: are readers meant to sympathize or empathize with Jimmy? First off, people have made it very clear that they dread the concept of empathizing with him, seeing as though he lives a pretty miserable life. In our discussion of their paper, Audrey mentioned that perhaps this reaction is rooted in the idea that Jimmy represents someone who the majority of people fear becoming. It is my opinion that Ware wrote Jimmy as a character who is meant to be relatable specifically to generate discomfort in the reader. From how (admittedly subjectively) ugly the character design is, and how the page layout is difficult and exhausting to read, I imagine it would make sense for this to be the case. I don’t, however, think that we are supposed to sympathize with him. Besides the fact that he is miserable, does he ever exhibit any objectively positive personality traits? One can’t really argue that, just because he has trouble talking to people, that he’s actually friendly at heart. He certainly doesn’t treat his mother very well. Other than that, I’d say he doesn’t really have that much going for him. In a sense, you could say that Ware creates a totally unsympathetic character who readers are still supposed to see themselves in. I’ll admit that my only solid piece of evidence supporting that we’re meant to empathize with Jimmy is the fact that everyone seems to dread doing so. I’m no psychologist, but I know that when I talk about dreading something or disliking some form of media, it’s usually because there’s something I don’t want to face about myself staring me in the face when I look at it.

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