Modern Times by Charlie Chaplin Essay
Modern Times by Charlie Chaplin
Synopsis: A black and white comedy by Charlie Chaplin, Modern Times takes place in America during the Great Depression. It follows Little Tramp (Chaplin) while he struggles to survive as a factory worker in a modern and industrialized world. Though this movie does not take place during the Industrial Revolution, the problems and challenges faced by Americans during the Great Depression are similar to the ones faced by people in the Britain during the early 1900s. As mentioned, this movie is in black and white. It is also a predominantly silent film, and these two factors take this movie outside of most students’ comfort zones. Students tend to moan in disappointment when they learn what they are about to watch. However, the slap-stick, and physical humour wins high school students over and they seem to always enjoy the film.
Activity After the Movie:
Research Essay – Students are asked to take their knowledge of the Industrial Revolution and write a research paper comparing it to the Great Depression as depicted in Modern Times. Opinion Essay – Chaplin uses this movie to shed a negative light on Capitalism and modernization. Accordingly, students could write an opinion paper agreeing or disagree with Chaplin’s ideas of industrialization. Below are three examples of relevant scenes from the movie that correlate with both essay topics: The opening scene is of people marching to work and then it switches to a shot of a herd of sheep walking the streets.
This is to portray Chaplin’s opinion that people are more like sheep in an industrialized society, losing their individuality. One may argue that this was also the case during Industrial Revolution with the switch from the cottage industry to factory work. After this opening scene the audience sees Chaplin in the factory, where he has a repetitive assembly-line job tightening screws together as products run by on a conveyor belt. Next his boss speeds up the machine, and it gets harder and harder for him to keep up. Eventually, this monotonous regime causes him to have a breakdown and lose his job. This scene is a great one to highlight to students because it is a clear example of an assembly line.
Also, the fact that it gets harder and harder for Chaplin’s character to keep up, which then leads to a breakdown and consequent unemployment is a commentary on the quality of life that this assembly-line work creates and the risks and danger involved. There are many references to communism, which is an important ideology to know when learning about the Industrial Revolution. After Little Tramp becomes unemployed he ends up on the street where he finds a red flag and begins to wave it. This causes the police to believe that he is a communist and he is put in jail. There are also scenes where Little Tramp is seen dividing and sharing stolen necessities, such as food, with the working class. This may not be a direct connection to Communism, but is pointing out some of the disadvantages of Capitalism.