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Pathos in the film “City Lights” Essay

Charlie Chaplin’sCity Lights, subtitled “A Comedy Romance in Pantomime,” was released in 1931. Chaplin was responsible for the film’s production, direction, editing, music, and screenplay. City Lights is a combination of pathos (an emotion of sympathetic pity), slapstick and comedy. In the film City Lights Chaplin uses pathos in the scenes “Flower Girl”, “This Time Stay Out” and “Still Hoping”.

The first example of pathos in City Lights is in the scene “the Flower Girl.” In this scene he enters and exits a parked limousine in a traffic jam to avoid a motorcycle policeman where he then confronts a beautiful blind girl selling flowers. She hears the limo door slam and assumes he is a millionaire. She asks him to buy a flower; he is infatuated with her and gives her his last coin for a flower. She then thinks he has left because she hears another limo door slam. Without asking for his change, he sits silently on the bench and watches her adoringly. While she changes the water for her flowers at the fountain, she accidentally throws a bucket of dirty water in his face. When the Flower Girl goes home that evening she dreams of more visits from him.

The next example of pathos is in the scene “This Time, Stay Out.” During this scene the little tramp goes to the millionaire’s mansion in the limo the millionaire gave him when he was drunk, but the millionaire has sobered up, and doesn’t remember the little tramp and wants nothing to do with him. The Tramp is forced out of the house by the butler at the front door and walks away disappointed. Then, in the millionaire’s limo, he trails a man down the street waiting for him to throw out his cigarette. He has to fight off another bum for cigarette butt once it is dropped.

The final example of pathos is in “Hope is Rewarded.” The little tramp has just got out of prison and because of the tramp’s generous contribution nine months earlier the girl and her grandmother now own a flower shop and the girl has had her sight restored with an operation. Defeated by the prison experience, the little tramp slowly walks along the town’s streets looking for the flower girl at her normal sidewalk location. A millionaire enters the flower shop to purchase flowers, and the girl hopes that her savior has returned to reveal himself. She tells her grandmother: “…I thought he had returned.” Just outside the flower shop, a newspaper boys’ peashooter pesters the tattered tramp, her real savior. When he bends down to pick up a discarded rose in the gutter one of the boys grabs a piece of his shirt hanging out of his pants and tears off a piece and holds it up. The Little Tramp snatches it back and chases the boys then folds up the cloth and wipes his nose with it. The flower girl was watching and giggling through the flower shop window.

When he notices the girl through the shop window, he is filled with joy and he smiles at her. She then makes an ironic comment to her grandmother: “I’ve made a conquest!” “The film’s most simple, moving, eloquent and poignant finale is filled with melancholy and pathos”(City Lights Review, Tim Dirks pg. 3). The Tramp tries to avoid her, she then stops laughing and pities him. She calls him back and in a sympathetic act of charity, offers him a flower to replace the wilting one he picked up from the gutter; she also offers him a coin. When she takes his hand, she recognizes who he is with her acute sense of touch. She realizes that he is the mysterious patron. At first, she appears dismayed

because he looks completely different from what she dreamed about. The Tramp becomes excited when she accepts him for who he is.

The Little Tramp put aside his own interest and feelings to accommodate others; he sacrifices his own happiness by providing the one gift, which will deny his own fulfillment. In the Scene “The flower girl” pathos is shown when the blind girl thinks he is a millionaire just because she hears the limo door and hearing another door shut she believes he has left. Then, in “This Time Stay Out” you feel pity for the little tramp once he is kicked out of the millionaires house because the millionaire is sober and he follows a stranger to get a cigarette butt. Finally in the last scene “Hope is Rewarded” the blind girl feels pity for the little tramp and wants to help him in the same way he felt pity for her and wanted to help her in the beginning.

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