While working on my presentation for Clockwork Angels, I came to an interesting conclusion about the novel. I believe that the plot of Clockwork Angels, while unique and riveting, is essentially inconsequential. Clockwork Angels is, for me at least, an exercise in redefining the way a story is told. As I read it I paid specific attention to the faces throughout the story, how they were displayed and what they represented to me.
I don’t know if I was drawing more on Lévinas or McCloud, but the depiction of faces in Clockwork Angels was like none I had ever seen before. A large part of my attention to their detail was a function of necessity; often I found myself examining the faces of Amy and Temper in an attempt to distinguish between the two. Adding Milly and Glory into the mix only complicated matters further—but as I read the story I came to find that to be a result of their familial bonds. The confusion I found in the faces of the characters was confusion not only to myself, but to classmates, and even characters in the novel. The blurring of identity lends itself to make possible the transformation at the end of the novel—the seven sisters are so alike that they share countenances.
When Amy and Temper are presented in the same frame, I could not tell the difference between them except for the jewelry they wore around their necks. When I saw a frame of them later in profile, looking at each other and embracing, a thought struck me. Amy and Temper are so similar because they are like mirrors to one another—not only can they not exist without each other but they fulfill each other. The love they share as the novel progresses is quite explicitly described not by words or action, but sheer visuals. They are depicted as one figure when transformed to the angel, and this signifies both their unity and similarity at once.
On the other end of the face signifier is the male antagonist, Sacerdote. Sacerdote is depicted sharply in contrasting black and white, often wearing suits. His face however, is a blank canvas. It is nondescript, shaven, lacking any significant features. His eyes hide behind large spectacles, blacked out so the eyes cannot be seen. This dually prevents us from knowing Sacerdote, but also impresses upon us predisposed notions of visual. He appears evil, lifeless—and that is what he is. His face is a blank canvas for us to impose our own judgments, our own ideas. Because he represents nothing outwardly, we are so easily able to imagine him as evil incarnate. He functions perfectly as a villain, mysterious yet concretely nefarious.
Clockwork Angels becomes a work of art to me. Rather than focus on the story I focus on the details such as these. It is a great example of a playing with how a story is told. Clockwork Angels signifies all the things that make a great story, it resonates to us—but not because of the story. It is powerful because of the way it is told, and in doing so serves as an example of unconventional storytelling.