This is the first installment in my series of Graphic Novel Reviews, in which I will publish a review each Tuesday until I run out of books. This is based, in part, on a class that I am currently taking about the graphic novel. Read the next one here
Blankets is a graphic novel by Craig Thompson which is a semi-autobiographical story about a young Craig as he grows up in a small, religious town wrought with bullies and abuse while dealing with his first real love.
This is both an analysis as well as a review; I have tried to keep spoilers to a minimum, but they are still present in the following paragraphs.
This is certainly a coming of age story, but what makes this unique is that his trigger for growing is not his relationship with Raina, but the dissolving of that relationship. Many tales are told of young love accelerating an adolescent’s growth into adults, but in this case, the clarity that comes with his heartbreak helps him break from his constrictive family. His family is like many one might find in the Mid-West, and this book beautifully and articulately explain the mind set of a confused, repressed, oppressed youth living in constant fear.
The art style is expressive yet accessible. Because the story is being told from the point of view of a developing artist, the visuals are even more important that usual. In a meta sense, the imagination of the character is shown through his dream and thought sequences in a way that he might draw, himself, allowing the readers a vivid picture of a creative mind’s machinations (Which he later created, making this book).
artstyle: expressive yet accessible. Artistic protagonist = important art. Meta art, him drawing a drawing of him drawing himeslf in the tree. Artwork made me enjoy it more. Flows more than novel would. Adult ideas are more religious/ more physical than abstract. Religious stories are drawn in more realistic style. When the feeling or thoughts are more potent than the reality, that is what is shown on the page, making for a fantastical yet realistic blending of dream and fantasy. In some cases, growing up in such a town, fantasy was more appealing to Craig for a long time.
The motif of “blanket” comes up many times in the book. Raina makes Craig a blanket, but Craig also carries a security blanket with him, wherever he goes. Raina uses Craig as a blanket to shied her from her family, as snow blankets the ground. His conservative home town smothers him like a too-hot quilt on a summer’s night.
This book is certainly an indictment of very conservative religions. Craig gets bullied at the Christian camp which he is sent to each year, his self-loathing induced by natural sexual urges is detrimental to his growth, and even his Sunday school teacher tells him that drawing is not an acceptable way to “praise God.” He at first turns to religion fervently, using heaven as a goal to achieve after suffering so much in life. However, Craig soon finds that this religious experience is not what he is looking for.
You may see a symbol akin to a sun with two chunks taken out strewn throughout the novel. This is like a hide-and-seek game the author plays with his readers, toying with the meaning of this repeated symbol strewn throughout the book.
Finally, this is a great example of the power of the graphic novel because unlike simple text or even film, readers can see the character’s feelings, attitudes, fears, and dreams though the depiction of the world around him. Take for instance, this photo of my copy of the novel. The two character’s word bubbles have two very different fonts printed in them and this shows clearly the character’s feelings. It is concise and clear.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and I recommend anyone who is interested in coming of age stories, the affects of religion, or the dynamics of very stressed families to pick up a copy.