Life In and Of the City

While we were discussing “The City” by Frans Masereel one discussion point really caught my attention. Alot of people had ideas on whether or not there are main characters who appear in several panels but not in sequence. When we think about what’s essential for a novel, one of the first things that comes to mind is characters. A novel typically has a clearly defined cast of characters, some main and others background. However, its seems as if Masereel wants readers to pick and choose which characters they want to follow through his narrative of sorts. While I was looking back through the panels, I realized that there are several similar character types, or character pairs which appear from time to time. One of the easiest to recognize is the large man with a bowler hat and a thick mustache. I believe he first appears on panel eighteen and goes on to appear as somewhat of a dark character in several other panels. It’s hard to say whether he is one character or an assortment of characters but his face and body type appear the most frequently of any other characters. Another set of recurring characters are the couple who first appear in panel twenty six. In that panel the elderly mustached man lays on his deathbed with his family around him and his wife by his side. We can see similarities in the couple which appears to be newlyweds in panel thirty one. This couple may once again appear in panel thirty seven where they are joined by a son and daughter. The fact that these characters look similar but are shown at different ages is a sign that Masereel is trying to communicate that the city is unaffected by time. People are born, grow old, and die but the city stays the same. I think the fact that it’s hard to pinpoint an exact time period to place this story in, is another sign that Masereel is trying to communicate the timelessness of the city. I remember in class someone suggested that the city itself could be the main character. I think this is part of what Masereel is trying to show by using consistent character styles and grouping together certain characters.

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