Analyzing Their Tears

Spinning pg. 170

In the two memoirs, Stitches and Spinning, David Small and Tillie Walden share their perspectives of each trauma. David and Tillie both have a poor relationship with their mothers, since Betty is aggressive and Tillie’s mother is careless. In Stitches, Betty asked David if he wants anything while waiting for his next surgery. David replied that he wants the book, Lolita, which Betty dislikes and burned up before and this was the start of their confrontation. They glower at each other and their facial expressions show how they feel. In Spinning, Tillie was about to get hit by the cars while waiting for her mother after the cello lesson. However, Tillie hides what was happened and does not share anything with her mother when she gets in the car. She does not look at her mother, but just stares at the window in the car. There is an obvious difference in their responses. Tillie tries to distract herself at night alone to escape from that scary moment, while David does not go back and defies his mother. Betty was the one who gets out of that situation by averting David’s gaze and going out of the room. In Spinning, the panels focus more on the dark view that Tillie is staring at, than Tillie herself. However, in Stitches, the panels directly focus on the facial expressions of David and Betty.

Stitches pg. 174

David Small and Tillie Walden utilize panel layout and symphonic effect to effectively show not only the motion and time of the situation, but also the characters’ emotions. In Hillary Chute’s “Comics for Grownups?”, Chute states, “Comics shapes time by arranging it in space on the page in panels, which are, essentially, boxes of time.” (Chute 24). The arrangement of panels instructs the pace that the audience may have while reading the comics. Also, Chute describes the symphonic effect, saying that “Comics does not propose linear reading in the same way prose does. Cognitively, one’s eye usually first takes in the whole page, even when one decides to start in the upper left corner and move left to right.” (Chute 25). In Stitches, there are three rows: first with one long panel, second with two panels, and third with three panels. One moment is separated into the first three panels to escalate and elongate the confrontation between David and Betty. These panels make the audience move their eyes slowly, since they are stuck one instant. The last row shows the transition of motion that Betty is going out of the room. By showing one quick movement in three panels, the audience may move quickly and turn the page right away. Also, when the audience looks at the whole page, the first thing that catches the audience’s eye is Betty’s absurd and sudden action in the third row while confronting David in the first two panels. This panel layout intensifies the tension and underscores how unexpected that action is. In Spinning, the first row is composed of two square panels, but the second and third rows are in one long panel. The first two panels show the motion of Tillie waiting for her mom and getting into the car, and these scenes go by quickly. The last two panels are at the same moment and the last panel is a zoomed-in image of the second panel that shows Tillie staring at the window in the car. These two adjacent panels emphasize fear that Tillie would feel and let the audience read at a slow pace.

Both Small and Walden portray their traumas by displaying their childhood relationships with others. They utilize framing and symphonic effect to help both audience who had also suffered from trauma and those who can’t relate empathize with their emotion and situation. Stitches and Spinning focus on the mistreatment and negligence of adults that David and Tillie have experienced. Regardless of how different their reactions are toward the adults, young David is hurt by his insulting mother and young Tillie is even hurt by her mother’s carelessness amid hiding her gender identity from them. Small presents his trauma by utilizing the dark background and detailed facial expressions of the characters which imply the atmosphere of the situation. Also, the juxtaposition of half of David’s face and half of Betty’s face, making two panels look like a single face, intensifies the tension, and it allows the audience to read the book more realistically. Walden also displays her trauma by invoking tension and fear. Tillie staring out the window in the car at night without telling her mother about the car accident implies her emotion. Tillie is trapped in darkness and any audience will empathize with her feeling. By building emotional engagement with the audience, the authors make the audience better understand and immerse in their stories. In Stitches and Spinning, the authors manipulate various rhetorical strategies and visual techniques to successfully share their childhood stories and trauma.

Works Cited:

Chute, Hillary L. Why Comics?: from Underground to Everywhere. Harper, 2017.

Small, David. Stitches: a Memoir. W. W. Norton Company, 2009.

Walden, Tillie. Spinning. First Second Books, 2017.

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