The two graphic novels Stitches, by David Small, and Spinning, by Tillie Walden, are memoirs about bildungsroman. The coming to age of the two respective protagonists are have many similarities, although the stories are each unique. For started, both protagonists encounter similar trauma, whether it be emotional or physical. Small makes it evident from the beginning that he has no role models in his life, few people he can talk to, and an absence of any emotional support. This makes him feel isolated. As a result, Small is an incredibly introverted and quiet child. That being said, he is not the only one in this graphic novel who endures trauma or pain. It is clear that a common theme in the novel is suffering. This is shown by basically every character small writes about. Both parents seem to hate their life and family. Even the therapists seems to have underlying troubles. The significant aspect of this is David’s parents oblivion to this. For example, once David is recovered from his surgery, he begins to go down a dark path. Instead of trying to get help for David, his parents send him to boarding school as they believe he is a “normal, rebellious teenager.” The fact that his parents can’t even realize he is suffering plays a pivotal role in how his behavior. He begins to go on an ever-looping, depressed cycle where his life continues to unravel and fall apart in front of him. This dark cycle parallels the youth of Walden. Walden practically had the same day on repeat throughout her childhood. She would wake up incredibly early, skate, go to school, skate again, and go home. Similar to David’s reading, skating was Walden’s safe place from the trauma and unpleasantness that surrounded her.
Chute points out that authors like to tell stories of themselves as children. By doing this, they are opening up to their audience about the root of a lot of their underlying issues. They display this darkness through a literal lack of color in their illustrations. The two scenes I chose to trace and annotate are from the early childhood of both characters.
Both scenes use positive and negative light to show an ominous tone. The juxtaposition of darkness and light creates a transparent mood of sadness and shows a repetition of depression. Likewise, both illustrations feature a focal point where the subject is the clear target as they are scaled largely in comparison to the background and foreground. Another similarity is in the shading. For the most part, both illustrations use only the whiteness of the paper and different shades of dark gray or black. They use the dark black to outline the other objects in the scene. However, there is still gray shading to show the subject. Overall, the two scenes are very dark which displays the trauma which the two protagonist endured throughout their childhood. Focusing on stitches, the usage of lines shows that David is somewhat in motion. The other lines show that he is in some sort of crevice or cave as the lines are curved and move around the focal point. Small takes up a whole page with just three frames. The transitions are frank and go in chronological order, as small is delving deeper into the crevice. The crevice is actually his own mouth, and he is looking at his recently clipped vocal cord. By using only three frames, Small makes it clear that this is a significant point in the story. This is the point when David goes from being able to talk, to not being able to ever verbally communicate again. In contrast, Walden includes a bunch of small frames, showing small changes. The changes show an actual movement, similar to a flip book. That being said, there is one very large frame which takes up a quarter of the page. The frame shows her sitting alone in the dark, waiting for a ride. The reason this is big is because it displays a level of sadness to the audience as she is sad and vulnerable.