Unit 4 Post
Choose an excerpt (page, panel, multiple panels, part of a panel) for close study.
Take a photo of the section you’re discussing and insert that image at the top of your post. (Pay attention to image resolution, size, alignment in your post.)
In your post — 300-400 words—describe how the pictorial depiction 1) helps convey accurate (or heightened) understanding of the event, and 2) affects you, perhaps to the point of conviction, by its use of graphic “rhetoric” (e.g., page layout including panel, gutter, and border size/placement; speech balloons, text boxes, and their relationship to images; and the artist’s style). Remember to tag your section leader under “category.”
Page 47 describes the scene of chaos that ensued in the Nashville headquarters where John Lewis was located while waiting to rejoin the freedom riders, when reports surfaced that his bus had been firebombed. The pictorial description illustrates the discord of the situation and the tense atmosphere through the inclusion of crowded, overlapping speech bubbles with varying levels of legible font. On page 46, prior to hearing this news on the radio, the illustrator paints an idyllic scene with students lounging on a hill and listening to music, but the “breaking news bulletin” projected from the radio shatters this tranquil scene.
The speech bubble from the radio is jagged, and motion lines emanate from the radio, which is a physical manifestation of the shock the news had on its listeners. On page 47, some of the radio’s speech bubbles are obscured by other panels, illustrating how the activists in Nashville were only receiving fragments of information, contributing to the mounting sense of anxiety and panic. Interestingly, on the wall in this panel there also appears to be a framed picture of Jesus watching the whole scene. I found this detail fascinating in the context of the rest of the novel, because during several other scenes that depict violence against the activists, particularly when the church is bombed on the last page, Jesus’ eyes are obscured. I’d like to believe that this is a symbol that the activists have the support of Jesus, even when their movement is going through a time of chaos and uncertainty.
Additionally, speech bubbles from individuals in the room making phone calls in hopes of gleaning more information about the situation crowd each panel, overwhelming the reader. This stylistic choice elicits the frenzy of activity in the room. The illustrator also does a great job of drawing emotive facial expressions, and I found that the second picture down on the far right in particular captures the fear John Lewis must have felt for his friends and colleagues in this moment. The speech bubble of the woman shouting “hey!” in the background also implies that the men are so captivated by the radio broadcast that they are oblivious to their surroundings. The darkness of the background enveloping the two male subjects in this picture also contributes to the ominous tone of the image.
I believe that this graphic interpretation of the situation was more effective at capturing the chaos of the moment than traditional text. If I were reading the text on a page, even if the author had denoted that the speakers were interrupting each other with dashes, or emphasized the urgency by using capital letters, the text would be linear and neat, which contrasts the disarray the author is trying to convey. With a graphic novel, the illustrator could physically overlap text bubbles and write dialogue with more freedom which makes the scene feel more authentic and three-dimensional, like watching a movie. I found the illustrated version particularly moving because the vivid imagery forced me to picture myself in a position where people I care about are in danger and I have no information about their condition.