Isolation and Darkness
Isolation and darkness seems to be two major themes in Will Eisner "Cookalein" and can clearly see this throughout the graphic novel but clearly on pages 164-171 which I will be analyzing. Eisner’s art draws an almost realistic image yet at certain moments in the novel he makes them very cartoonish, drawing contrasts when he wants you to contrast. His art is simple yet very expressive. Through his broad strokes and shading the reader can get a sense of what the character is going though and at times truly feel the emotion they are going through. On page 164 in the panel at the top right corner is a young man who is cowering. The placement of the rest of the panels keep him in this corner, making the reader truly feel the position the young man is in. Willie, who has been cast aside after the women's husband has arrived, leaving him alone in the corner watching what is going on.
The way Eisner has shaded the background gives the reader a sense of isolation and loneliness that Willie is feeling at that moment in time. Even with the placement of the word bubbles seemingly also push him into this corner giving you a sense of neglect and conflict as well. Willie’s face seems more cartoonish than previously portrayed and in the middle panel (164) his eyes seem larger than life with sweat falling from his forehead. This perspiration is also larger than life and very similar to ones you would see in a comic or a Saturday morning cartoon. In the bottom panel you again see his larger than life sweat drop and his body in full cowering mode in the corner, bending, virtually naked expect for the blanket covering him which he happens to be sucking on as well, reminding the reader that he is in fact still a young man who is alone and very vulnerable. This sense of isolation continues onto the next page 165 with the long panel that once again is shaded in black and Willie being shown from another angle in the corner he was in.
The shading on the top of the panel is line like, and draws your eyes to follow them down, which then shows the women being carried away by her husband which is shown in a fully black background creating the dynamic of darkness. This darkness can mean a variety of things to the reader such as the fact that he will be alone in the corner, naked with his cartoonish eyes staring down at them. That his feeling of being cast aside and left forgotten in the night are prevalent, especially as you see the couple walk out on the bottom right corner. One of my favorite observations of these pages is the repeating factor that Eisner uses a black shaded background to show this isolation to a repeated number of characters, which you see on page 166 with the two kids.
This isolation is not so much of being left alone and depression as more to show that they are alone, surrounded by nothing as these two children essentially have a very adult moment and conversation with each other. Eisner especially puts the reader in place when he shows the house on top with the landscape but then with this black background shows the "underneath" of the house, which one could presume also means the secrets that are often hidden below the surface. The most ironic panel of this layout on 166-167 is the middle image on 167 which is not shaded in as the other panels are but in fact are white, not lines or black but white. Once reading the dialogue you get the sense that possibly Eisner was showing the innocence of them both and how young they were. It is the boys first “sexual" encounter and he honestly has no idea of what the parts are or what to do with them. White is normally thought of the pure color, the color of innocence and clearly stands out amongst the black background of the previous and the following panel which once again continues on to the next page at the very top panel. The girl and the boy are shaded in a white light where the rest is surrounded by blackness.
The next panel that shows isolation is on 171 when Benny is raping Goldie. The previous panels where shaded in the black lines (also saw this with the boy on page 165). This is an obvious portrayal of isolation and darkness in the crudest possible way. Rape is about isolation, yet, once again the ironic aspect of this panel is that they were in fact not alone but the two children from earlier pages have witnessed it as well. Eisner also makes these characters which were previously portrayed as cartoonish in earlier panels now seem to be very realistic in this panel, making the reader feel as if it is happening in front of them. He also only puts two words on top of the panel, “No Stop”! with the NO and ST letters tops almost breaking out of the panel, showing the urgency she felt and how loud she might have been screaming. Benny’s face as he bites her makes him seem almost beastly which we often associate with darkness. Whereas Goldie’s face is more humanistic. His muscles also are very defined, showing how he is overpowering her, causing her pain. I believe Eisner did this on purpose to show the contrast of them both as very different human beings. On previous pages the backgrounds of the panels that included Benny and Goldie (168-171) where of the line variety, often times just being a background and helping the reader know where to look. In the panel on 171 the background is strictly black, conveying just how dark the moment is with what is happening.
Will Eisner’s "A Contract With God", is one of those novels that if you look carefully often times you will see more than meets the eyes, making it a more meaningful image than what you had originally thought. This is one of the great aspects about Graphic Novels and shows how the author shades an image can convey a lot. I believe that with the shading he used Eisner was able to portray isolation and darkness with the contrasting of realistic and cartoonish drawing in his characters adding another depth to an already dark story.