FA Rough


Its hard to pinpoint one aspect of Lionel Essrog’s character that is “the most interesting or compelling” since his character is so unique to his own. Throughout the novel Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem we are shown so many different sides to Lionel, his character is one that is not easy to follow and to understand. His tourretes make life challenging for him and he is well aware of his disability. We see Lionel encounter all different stages of life throughout the novel; we see the evolution of a man who is used to solely relying on others, become more independent and self motivated. There were moments when he made me laugh and moments when he made me cry, Lionel allowes his Tourrettes to define who he is at times. His mind is constantly running with thoughts of how he should approach situation in a way that his Tourettes will not take over his mind and mouth. Lionel’s character is one that was extremely entertaining to follow and I will try to display his best characteristics and his most interesting moments throughout the novel.                                                                             In my eyes one of the most interesting aspects of Lionel is the way he perceives himself. Lionel made it very clear from the very first page of the story that he had Tourette’s. “I’m a carnival barker, an auctioneer, a downtown performance artist, a speaker in tongues, a senator drunk on filibuster. I’ve got Tourestte’s.”(Lethem 1). He allows this disability to define who he is. HOW? It is very apparent that there is a lot more to Lionel then his Tourettes however at any moment in the novel he likes to remind the audience that he has this disability. Tourettes is a very difficult disease to live with as we see through the life of Lionel, through the adaptation of filmmaking it is crucial that the thought process of Lionel is displayed properly. “My mouth won’t quit, though mostly I whisper or subvocalize like I’m reading aloud, my Adam’s apple bobbing, jaw muscle beating like a miniature heart under my cheek, the noise suppressed, the words escaping silently.(1). This is a key passage for the audience to hear; it tells a very important view of how Lionel feels when Tourettes takes over his body and mind. WHY? In order for the film to resemble the novel, the audience must know what Lionel is thinking, its one of the most important aspects of the novel and also one of the most interesting. “That’s when it comes, the urge to shout in the church, the nursery, the crowded movie house.” (2). A sentence like this one is one that the audience must hear, it shows a lot of depth of how Lionel feels and it adds to his character.                                                                                                                                            Lionel’s humor in the novel was one of the most entertaining factors, however it came in many different forms. The audience was constantly humored by his Tourette’s taking over his verbal control, this is not something that someone should laugh at however in the middle of a serious conversation when Lionel yells “Dickweed” its hard not to chuckle. Lionel just being a very funny character also humored us, a specific scene in the novel where four strange men kidnap Lionel he manages to bring such a light and entertaining humor to the scene that makes it my personal favorite scene of the novel. When Lionel realizes that the men who kidnapped him are amateurs he starts to tease them. “All four of their sunglasses still bore price tags, dangling fluorescent orange ovals reading $6.99! I reached out and batted at Pimples price tag. He turned away, and my finger hooked the earpiece and jerked the shades off his face, into his lap.” (146) To think this is moments after he is dragged into a car by four random men he has never seen before is hilarious and reckless. WHY? He is in no way intimidated or scared by what could possibly happen to him. He is truly fearless at times. He manages to bring such joy and humour in a situation that should be terrifying.                                                                                                                                                         A actor that I believe would do an excellent job playing the role of Lionel in a movie would be Tom Hanks. Immediately when reading this topic for an essay it had caught my eye. Reason being the film Forrest Gump directed by Robert Zemeckis, displays a man who is slow witted and his journey through a very interesting life. The role of Forrest is played by Tom Hanks, this is one of my favorite movies and I believe that Tom Hanks had done an outstanding job playing this role. He managed to make it extremely evident that something was slightly wrong with Forrest, however he created a balance that made it easy for a viewer to follow Forrest on his journey. I believe that Tom Hanks could do the same for the role of Lionel, the actor of this role is crucial to making this a successful film. Tom Hanks must be able to focus on playing this role in such a way that Lionel’s ticks are evident but do not take away from who he is entirely. Lionels character is complex so finding the right actor very important. Tom Hanks would have to be invested in this character unlike any other, “That’s when it comes, the urge to shout in the church, the nursery, the crowded movie house.” (2). He must be able to display this feeling in such a way to captures Lionel’s character properly.                                                                                                                                                Lionels inner conflict and sense of humor were the most interesting aspect of Lionels character in my eyes. His journey throughout the novel brings light upon these two characteristics that are so evident in the story. Motherless Brooklyn highlights the difficulties that people with Tourette’s phase everyday, it’s a difficult disability to live with and it is displayed very clearly in Lionel. The novel is one that I really enjoyed and recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good story from a unconventional protagonist and narrator.

Nadav Sarid


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