The Big Clock (1948): Midterm

The Big Clock

The Big Clock was much more than a hard boiled mystery in many regards. The issues brought up metaphorically and literally, exemplify the individualism prevalent in American society around the middle of the 20th century. Giving the protagonist and that readers an opportunity to reexamine the meaning and value of time, the machine of society and business and the complexities of self preservation, while also speaking of more personal issues like marital trust and homosexuality.

Fearing and his political beliefs were key factors in the development of thise personal and societal complexities. One of the personal complexities not made as clear in the film as in the book, was a the homosexual tendencies or activities of Janoth and Pauline. The film did depict Janoth as being slightly effeminate, delicate at times and someone who depended on his partner in crime, Hagen, to keep his life in line. But in the book the complexity of their relationship was taken further and there were points made to emphasize the devotion the men had to eachother, though it was only clearly implied to me that Janoth was gay. Whether or not it was Fearing’s personal discriminations or merely a look into other realities than the social norm, The Big Clock was typical of film noir´s tendency to depict marginalized gender variants and homosexual characters as pathological or dangerous. In the film The Celuloid Closet, it’s pointed out that in many early films, especially at the height of the Cold War, when/if ever homosexuals were portrayed; they were either comic relief or villains who almost certainly died. The intention of many of these cases was to reassert heterosexual masculinity and matrimony and save America from its homosexual infiltrators.

Another social issue brought up by the book was implied by the emphasis of the intricacies of the Janoth Corporation. The book was filled with details on individual papers in the firm, as well as what they did and sometimes who they were marketed to and how they were doing. The information repeated in the same fashion as advertizing and how memory is associated with repeat messages. It seems almost completely mundane and useless when considering the larger plot, but it does speak openly of Fearring’s opinion of a corporate world’s overindulgent, mind grueling, worker murdering nature. And because it was the protagonist who was telling you all about these divisions in the company, you could conclude that those were his opinions as well. The average person doesnt need their immediate life at risk to motivate them to spend it in a job they hate, but Fearring used the threat as a metaphor causing us to question why we make ourselves suffer for “6 years and no vacations”.

These questions tie in with a few of the greater issues brought up by the story: self preservation, self investigation and escaping from yourself are all approached. Both George and Strouth are subjects of these dilemmas, whether in the form of sexuality, understanding your values and beliefs or just finding out what you’re capable of. Fearring’s book is a continuous wave of thought provoking social issues, some of which carried over to the film quite well for those who are looking.

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