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Tragedy Writing Donnie Darko As An Illustation Of The Tragic Mode

516 words - 3 pages

Donnie Darko, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone and Patrick Swayze is an edgy,complex, psychological thriller about a suburban American teen dealing with the pressures of modern life and psychosis inducing anti-depressants. As well as being a masterpiece of modern cinema, Donnie Darko is also an excellent example of modern tragedy, as defined by Northrop Frye's Modal theory. Firstly, the movie takes place in the month of October, a subtle (though not necessarily intentional) link to the Modal theory in which Tragedy is connected to autumn. Secondly, Donnie Darko fits perfectly into the modern "tragic hero" description, he is a regular, upper-middle class teenager who is intelligent and relatively personable, if somewhat ...view middle of the document...

It is this conflict that Donnie cannot emerge from victorious, as proven by his alternate-reality death at the end of the film. It is also this conflict that makes the film tragic, Donnie cannot escape the fate prophesized by Frank, who tells him that his world will end in 28 days. Donnie Darko certainly questions the nature of human existence, in its exploration of reality versus perception, time travel and destiny. The convoluted parallel universe structure can be interpreted as entirely invented by the chemically-scarred Donnie or as an actual tear in the space-time continuum that allows Donnie to actually change the past and alter the future. Either interpretation challenges accepted views of human existence and the very fabric of the physical universe. Regardless of your interpretation of the story, it is certain that Donnie's universe (whether real or imaginary) is malevolent, forcing him to choose between his life and that of his girlfriend Gretchen. On the surface, it may appear that Donnie Darko departs from the tragic mode when Donnie burns down self-help guru Jim Cunningham's house, revealing his "kiddie porn dungeon". Although Jim Cunningham is not a "good person" and is antagonistic towards Donnie, his arrest forces Donnie's mother and sister on to the plane that will later cause his death, and cause him to lose his battle against his destiny as prophesized by Frank. The ambiguity and complexity of Donnie Darko makes it difficult to place in any single genre or mode, however it is definitely based around the generally accepted definitions of tragedy, by questioning things such the nature of human suffering and the meaning of life and the universe.

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