Needless to say, the plot of this graphic novel is extremely chaotic– we are presented with two distinct narrators whose lives seem to merge but who follow different trains of thought, the narrative of the story is messy and difficult to follow, there’s way too much nudity, and the characters within the story–being teenagers–are acting very hormonal. Amidst all the chaos, the audience is left having to tease out the moral of the story.
Since this is the first time being exposed to this text, I am stuck in a whirlwind of confusion. I can’t seem to figure out the multiple layers of isolation being presented in this text, and I sadly, can’t identify with the issues facing the teenagers because I had a whole different set of teenage problems outside the ones depicted in this novel.
However, I was particularly struck by the Burn’s need to depict changing character traits as a form of metamorphosis. Looking up the term “metamorphosis” in the dictionary, I came across the following definition:-
“(in an insect or amphibian) the process of transformation from an immature form to an adult form in two or more distinct stages.”
“A change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one.”
Burns’ choice to depict the characters as teenagers offers some clarification as to why the characters change form. Teenage years, marking the stage of puberty, and a move from childhood to adulthood, offers group for some of “metamorphosis” within the context of the novel.
But there are also a number of flaws within this definition that are almost aggravating to me as a reader. Here are some of them.
1.) Metamorphosis based on my understanding requires a linear progression or series of stages. So an adult frog starts of as an egg, then moves to being a tadpole and then moves to being a tadpole with legs before emerging as an adult frog. There’s a clear starting point and a clear end point. This text, however, is contextualized in the middle of this progression. We are unsure of how the characters took form as children, and based on the end of the novel, we are also unsure of their end form. The idea of the “Black hole” as a metaphor stands not only for isolation, but for genuine confusion from a reader’s perspective. Added to this frustration is the fact that the experience of “teenage-hood” is also strictly contextual. These depictions are of American teenagers within a set time period so the experiences might greatly differ from other teenage perspectives across time periods and geography.
2.) There’s still no resolution as to why the concept of adolescence is depicted as an embodiment of some animal form. What is the rationale behind switching the face of a human boy to the face of a cat? Is there a reason for Eliza’s tail? Or Chris’ need to periodically shed skin like a snake? Granted the change of forms might just be temporary. But remember that metamorphosis is a linear progression–eggs–>tadpole–>tadpole (with legs)–> adult frog. You have a clear destination and every stage within the development entails some adding on of form or body part to reach that final stage of development. You can’t go from being a tadpole to being a butterfly. It just doesn’t work. There has to be some linear progression from one form to another.
I’m interested to see what you guys think.
Chiamaka Odera Ebeze (coe209).
Great point! I thought the same way after watching a short film on youtube about the graphic novel. Here is the link to the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pr7KIboNiRc