Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Clockwork Signifiers

When Temper gives a real reading of the deceased Parrish's belongings in Clockwork Angels, the reader sees three specific objects in her mind's eye that she is able to read: a book, a shirt, and a set of tools or toiletries. These are highly personal items and representative of basic signifiers that have been incorporated throughout our readings this semester. The book is symbolic of the written word, one of the earliest common signifiers. In Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, special attention was paid to the written word and its evolution from visual representations. Thus, this signifier symbolizes communication, which becomes especially important when considering the format of the texts that we have read in this course. The comic strip to poetry to the short story are all related, and in some ways interrelated, by the simple human need to convey ideas to others. The shirt is important as an outward display of a culture or time period. As we noted in Clockwork Angels, the clothing style is typical of the time period in which the story is set and grounds the more fantastic elements of magic and psychics in reality for the reader. Clothing can also be the only accurate way to distinguish between the characters such as Temper and Amy who are drawn in a very similar manner. The tool or toiletry kit, whichever it may be, is representative of basic human needs and functions. The idea of either the simple needs of a particular trade or caring for one's appearance and outer seeming in a private environment signifies the relationships between people on either a personal or professional level. Generally speaking, most human interactions can be divided between these two categories.
It is also significant to note that Temper is unable to describe the face of the murderer that she senses in her vision. The face as signifier and object has been an important theme in our studies. Temper is unable to identify with the murderer on a human level and, as a result, cannot perceive or remember his face. In this case the signifier holds a meaning or insight into a particularly abhorrent aspect of human nature that Temper either does not relate to or insists on ignoring. As a result, a gap is created between her and the subject of her vision as a person that cannot be bridged until she comes to an understanding of him as a person.

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