An analysis of Will Eisner’s “The Super”

 

Eisner, Will. "The Super." A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Eisner, Will. “The Super.” A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

I¬†would like to focus on “The Super,” a short story in Will Eisner’s graphic novel, “A Contract with God.” As I talk to different people about this story, I am consistently surprised that most people do not realize that the real villain in this tale is the little girl, Rosie. It is at this point, before I begin my argument that I must explain that I am not actually saying that the character of Scruggs was a good person, because he is not. I am not going to defend him. I am not taking his side because he is a male character, and I myself am a male. I do not, and cannot identify myself with that character in any manner. As an individual, he is set apart and deeply despised by the tenants of 55 Dropsie Ave. He is a foul and disgusting man of morally low character. He is anti-Semitic and seemingly uses his position of meager importance to lord over the people to whom he is responsible. Lastly, and probably most important, he is clearly a pedophile. However, these facts do not alter the truth that the Rosie is the true antagonist.

Let us just consider what we see when we examine her actions in the story. When Scruggs first encounters her in her apartment, it is obvious to everyone that he is clearly enamored with her as she stands there wearing only a towel. She allows him to continue his awkward leering, and even goes so far as to stand in the doorway as he is walking down the staircase. It is at this point that she begins to formulate her malicious plan. The story continues to follow Scruggs down into his basement bedroom; we are shown pictures of naked women nailed to every available wall space. However, before he begins to drink himself into a lust-filled stupor, he lovingly feeds his only companion, his enormous scary looking dog.

It is here, as detectives, that we have to assume Rosie got dressed with the aim to visit Scruggs in his room, at the same time she coolly prepared a poisoned candy for the dog. Ultimately, her entire plan consisted of first, pretend to be childlike and play on his loneliness and perversion to lower his guard. Second, innocently offer the poison food to the dog. Third, steal his moneybox when his back is turned. Lastly, she planned the escape route so she could lead him into the alley between the tenements where she was sure he would follow. Once there, she knew the perception of his hulking figuring threatening physical violence to her tiny, prepubescent body, in front of all her neighbors, would provide a powerful image and that popular opinion would take over, quickly. Each step was cold and calculated, and the premeditation of bringing the poison clearly shows intent.

However, what happens next is extremely interesting. As he walks from the alley in shame, while being chided as a murderer, animal and sex maniac, he proceeds straight to the building’s boiler room. Where, in what would be one of his finally acts, performs maintenance on the pipes, fills the boiler with coal and turns the hot water pressure up. In the end, giving each of his tenants what they most likely complained about the most. From there, with the police en route, he barricades himself inside his room and mourns the death of his only friend before ultimately committing suicide when faced with prison.

As despicable as Scruggs was, he did not deserve that fate. That little girl orchestrated each of those events. I will even go so far as to say that between the two of them she was the savvier than the adult or the more intelligent one, however you want to say that. To further that point, all a reader has to do is look at the next to last frame of the story. As she sits on the front stoop, humming to herself while she counts the money that she just stole. Clearly, no remorse in the role she played concerning the death of another human being.

 

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