Lionel’s conflicts

Alex Mukwende                                                                                                                     Mukwende1

Jeffrey  Gandell

Underdogs, Outcast, & Loners

Monday, October 17th, 2016


Lionel’s conflicts

Dear Mr. Edward Norton, I hear you need help to turn the book Motherless Brooklyn into a film. After reading carefully the novel Mr. Norton, I think the film should focus the main conflict of the novel.  During the novel, Lionel is facing with several conflicts that show to the readers how it must hard for him to deal with it. The major core conflict is Lionel trying to find love, not only from others but also from love himself.

At the beginning of the novel Lionel expresses the fact he has the Tourette’s syndrome and explains how he feels about it; ‘ One big lifetime of a tag.’ (5) Right away the readers can learn that Lionel is not comfortable with his disorder. Lionel feels people will always look at him as a different person. He also says a interesting quote where he describes his tics and how he is different from other people; ‘Now my tics were quieted-stress one thing, animal fear another, as when an airplane land shakily… I imagined I controlled things I didn’t… My Tourettes was overwhelmed.’ (17)  This quote tell us how Lionel describes himself as person confused, when he says ‘ I imagined I controlled things I didn’t’ I think because of his tourette he seems not in control of himself, he doesn’t know where he is, just seems completely losses and when he says ‘an airplane land shakily’ I think that he is  feels a kind of fear, he is very not comfortable with his tics and seems to bother him . So he’s basically telling us that for him to live with this disorder is something stressful. I think all his stress started as a kid, because since young age he tended to be a loner; ‘As it was I was undersold goods, a twitcher and nose-picker retriever from the library instead of the schoolyard, probably a retard of some type, certainly a regrettable, inferior offering.’(38) So since childhood Lionel seems not good about himself.  He says ‘ I was undersold goods’ it caught me because he telling us as if he was a rotting. He thinks because of this disease, he is lower than the other and that explains why he doesn’t trust himself and believes he’s a decay. As well we can notice that his Tourette’s syndrome was always something that caused him to be judged by others around him and can do nothing to change. Later on we learn that Lionel was adopted by Minna’s  men. When Lionel meets Minna’s men, especially Frank Minna, he seems to change. Franks seems to be his bestfriend, he says : ‘ My symptoms loved him.’(85) Lionel sees Franks as a father figure, he loves him. He seems to be comfortable with him and for once he thought someone was treating him as a ‘normal’ person. But Minna was not as nice as I thought ; he says’ He thought my verbal disgorgins were only commentary not yet anchored to subject matter…He thought I was doing impressions.’ (57) It’s can of mean what he says about Lionel because it’s not really his fault, he has Tourette’s syndrome and   he should be more reasonable. But for Lionel, Minna was still really important for him. After the death of Frank, we can see how it got an impact Lionel’s self-esteem, where he seems to lose all love he got from Frank. Frank was the only person that could understand how hard it is to live with this disorder. So he doesn’t really find love that he was looking for, but when he meets Kimmery, he could again see a change from Lionel. A change that is familiar as when he met Frank. Lionel’s relationship with Kimmery was different then with other characters. As Frank, Kimmery was treating Lionel as a ‘normal’ person and seems to like him, she says ‘ No, but I mean stranger in a good way, too.’ (211) The readers can understand that Kimmery understood Lionel’s disorder and accepted him for who he is. When I read this quote, I was happy for Lionel because I felt that Kimmery really liked Lionel and thought maybe it could work between them. It was the same thing for Lionel, he really appreciated to be with her; ‘ Kimmery leaned closer, comforting the cat, not me. But I felt comforted.’ (213) He seems to more comfortable with her and more connected. Lionel makes this realization and understands that he enjoys Kimmery’s presence because she treats him as an equal person and more importantly, for once remains him as his friend Frank. Both Lionel and Kimmery have a mutual sense of protection towards each other. From this part of the novel, I really thought Lionel was finally finding the love that his looking for from the beginning of the story. Lionel was feeling great, not only he was falling in love, but he believes in himself. I said himself that he can move his tics when he is with Kimmery and that’s the first time I see Lionel’s act that way. Lionel got confident, and that shows in the reading, his very comfortable with her and I am very happy for him. Unfortunately Kimmery was not thinking the same way as Lionel  because shes says’ So that thing that happened with us, it was just, you know-a thing.’(309) For sure all the readers has sympathy for Lionel, because she basically telling us that Lionel doesn’t have a chance with her. Unfortunately, the feelings weren’t mutual. I think that was really hard to accept for Lionel, because after the death of his boss he really thought Kimmery will overcome the death of Frank and when he knew she’s going back with Stephen, for sure he took badly. So for him it was another failure to find love.

When Frank dies, Lionel is the most hurt by it. At the beginning he couldn’t accepted the death of his bestfriend because he has lot of respect for him and couldn’t realized that he is dead. But we can see that solving Frank’s murder, Lionel seems to be more independent and more mature. During he was interrogated by the cops he says “ I’ll catch de killer. That’s all I give you.’ (115) Lionel doesn’t want to solve Frank’s death with Minna’s men. We learn that he wants to solve his boss death and he is ready to take the role to figure who killed Frank. Lionel also shows another signs of maturity by realizing that he most take a big role to solve his boss; ‘ Instead I’d woken into the realization that I was Minna’s successor and avenger, that the city shone with clues. It seemed possible I was a detective on a case.’(132) This also informed the reader that he is the men that will avenge Frank’s death and shows understanding of his Tourette’s syndrome. So he seems  to slightly change. He seems to appreciated the role of detective because he says “For once I was playing lead detective instead of comic—or Tourettic—relief.” (143) He no longer lives in the orders of  Minna men and it starting to embrace the role of the lead detective and seems to calm down his tics. It was very important for him to solve his boss death because justice has to be done for Frank and when he solve it he says : ‘The ghosts I felt sorriest for weren’t the dead ones. I’d imagined Frank and Tony were mine to protect, but I’d been wrong. I knew it now. ‘(311) This quote shows that Lionel realized that he needs to move on and in a certain way they deserved their death, because they were involved in crooked business. By solving Frank’s death Lionel became more independent and seems to accept himself.

To conclude Mr Norton, Lionel becomes more confident with himself that leads him to finally accepting for who he is. Through the novel, people were looking at him as a person different but by solving Frank’s death, he became more independent and people seem to respect him. I can say that he finally find love. Love by himself. Now he got support from his other friends and that helps Lionel’s self-esteem. The core conflict of the novel is how Frank’s death had a big impact on Lionel’s life and by solving his death; he could prove to others that he can be independent.


Work Cited


Lethem,  Jonathan. Motherless Brooklyn. Vintage Books, 1999



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