Unformatted text preview: the electronic tv gadget, the whirr of the machine which increases with speed, the alarm bell and the mechanized voice of the Big Boss who barks out orders. Significantly, the Big Boss only ever speaks through the mechanized media of the loudspeaker and the television screen. We then see the Tramp, appearing as a factory worker, who is subjected to this mechanized environment What is the Tramp up to? Like the others, the Tramp is a slave to the workday clock and the speed of the machine. His repetitive work is shown to have an impact on his body. In this Chaplin is commenting not only on the nature of industrial work, but on how the Tramp, as the embodiment of human spirit, in incompatible with the demands of modern industrial work. Note what this kind of work does to social relations. The Human and the Machine If the Tramp is meant to embody something profoundly human, here we see that his human needs are at odds with the assembly line. The need to itch, or swat a bee, or stretch (all supremely human needs) clash with the need for increased speed of production. When he does pause, he literally halts production and brings on punishment from management. The rest of the men, who have been trained to submit to the machine rhythms, resent the Tramp for his humanity. Men are set at odds with other men by the bosses who subject them to such alienating form of labor. The Tramp immediately shows the physical signs of this struggle against the machine. "Get back to work" This sequence shows Chaplin's criticism of modern mechanization in its various forms. It begins by visualizing the psychological imprint (conversion hysteria /tics) that remain after he stops his repetitive work. A man quickly takes his place so that production can continue unabated. He must clock out (i.e. not earn wages) to use the bathroom. Then when he tries to do something supremely human and relax (the music changes to something more soothing and less rhythmic), the Big Boss appears on the screen and screams. Management here is always watching and disciplining any expression of humanity. The critique of visual mass media here is prescient, almost Orwellian. The big boss in the bathroom is both a nod to the "talkie" and the TV (a new invention in 1936) in that it noisily intrudes into private life. It is menacing, coercive and malign. Again Chaplin uses talking pictures dialogue to voice the imperative commands of the boss. Other voices in Modern Times The Feeding Machine: Sales Here, mechanically reproduced speech via the phonograph is used for selling a product that is designed to streamline the most human thing that there is in Chaplin comedies: eating. In Modern Times, as it seems to in all of Chaplin's oeuvre, most of the Tramp's motivation comes from hunger. This is the most basic and universal human need. The feeding machine (which is actu...
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- Spring '99
- tramp, Bill The Sheriff Chaplin