Private vs. Public in Die Stadt

There were many different interesting points posed in our discussion in class about Die Stadt by Frans Masereel. Many people have brought up the treatment of women within the city, what the city does to the people within it and if the city could be a graphic novel if it doesn’t contain words. I think the city tells an interesting narrative of everyday human experience, but one thing that stood out to me was the differences in the panels that contained public matters and private matters. I think this says a lot about how humans react and interact with the people around them and how they interact and are affected by the city itself.

Die Stadt, Frans Masereel, Image 4 http://graphicwitness.org/historic/s04.gif

The people in the city tend to be depicted with the same or similar facial expressions. When in public, they appear to be somewhat guarded to the world around them. In this panel, people are walking around the city with similar stoic expressions, in similar clothing. They all seem to be going through everyday motions, without much interaction.

Die Stadt, Frans Masereel, Image 39 http://graphicwitness.org/historic/s39.gif

In contrast, in their private homes, the citizens tend to be more expressive and show their “true colors” instead of blending in with the crowd. In the panel above, a man and a woman are expressing love towards one another. Things like this moment don’t appear in panels with multiple people. I think these private panels say a lot about how humans interact with the world. In most cases, people in public places with just go through the motions. They create barriers and hide things from the public because there are somethings that the public doesn’t need to see or that they don’t want the public to see. The people expressing love towards each other express it in a private place because it isn’t for others to see and they don’t want others to see it.

Die Stadt, Frans Masereel, Image 95 http://graphicwitness.org/historic/s95.gif

We discussed in class how the city can affect the citizens positively or be a negative force in the lives of its people. I think the moments where this is most prevalent is when people are by themselves. In the panel above, a man is inside on what appears to be a couch, holding his head and being hugged by a woman. The man appears to be distraught by something he has experienced and is covering his face. We tend to hide are emotions to the public but express them to our private places. We see how the city has affected him negatively.

So, the contrast between the people’s expressiveness in public and their expressiveness in their own private homes that Frans Masereel depicts shows a very common human experience. Also, because of the more expressive and emotional people tend to get within their private places, the panels where people are alone or inside better show how they are affected by the city compared to the panels with multiple people.

  1 comment for “Private vs. Public in Die Stadt

  1. alainazitzmann
    September 5, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    I never noticed that in panels that didn’t involve heavy crowds there tended to be more obvious emotion. I think that could also say something about the conformity that often happens within cities. Very cool!

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