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Daniel Clowes' Ghost World Analysis

Updated on June 26, 2012
Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
Ghost World by Daniel Clowes | Source

Daniel Clowes attempts to illustrate the awkward time in a teenager's life: post-graduation. Throughout high school, a person is constantly changing the way they appear to others in order to define who they are. Once high school is over, one needs to decide where and how they are going to succeed in society.

For Enid, Clowes' main character, this means abandoning her friends, her home and part of what defines her. She transforms her appearance constantly. She claims that she doesn't care what others think, but her green hair causes negative reactions. People begin to label her, which prompts her to change it back. We are constantly told to not care what others think, but in a consumer society run by the mass media, we will be labeled and defined based on appearance. The entire book is drawn in black, white and a teal green. In the beginning of the novel, we can assume this is the glare from the television reflecting on the characters and setting, but it persists--alluding to the fact that the world is constantly influenced by the media.


In the book, Enid wants to leave, but feels abandoned by others. She chooses not to tell others she is planning on leaving--even her best friend, Becky. Enid uses her sharp, spunky personality to judge others (i.e. the satanists), but she hates it when she is judged herself. In the film, which is also written by Clowes, Enid is also a comic artist. Because Clowes couldn't depict the commentary given by the arrangement and art of the novel, he uses Enid to make his points. Enid must attend an art class during the summer to make up credits and, at first, she is criticized for her cartoon art; (A girl who places a tampon in a teacup receives more praise.) When Enid finds a deeper subject in cartoon art, she is also praised for her artistic achievement even though she didn't physically paint the piece. Clowes is showing the viewer that the abstract art which is held at a higher standard than most other art is placing symbolic meaning where there is none. When Enid brings in the old Coon's Chicken logo, she is praised as long as she is able to explain it to the viewer. She has to justify her art like many comic artists, because her art is not taken seriously as she isn't.


Clowes replaces himself as the book's artist with Enid (in the film). As long as she can justify her art, she is taken seriously; in her absence, others take down her piece and she is rejected a place at an art school. Unlike in the novel, she is stuck at home without a plan for the future. This makes her vulnerable and places her in situations which she usually wouldn't put herself. Becky is much more put together and has a job. Enid's relationship with Seymour is much more intense in the film, he replaces the character Josh in some ways. These crucial relationship differences cause the audience to see more of the realistic consequences which come from the lack of discipline. In the end of both the novel and film, Enid leaves town alone. In order to truly find herself, she needs to leave the history that she has with everyone in Ghost World. What causes her to be this judgmental, spontaneous, immature young adult is the fact that she has a personality or history of self which others know and expect from her. Clowes wants his reader to see the life of this girl and look deeper. Are we run by this consumer society? Do we judge just as the television does? Should we attempt to bring comic relief to the world or should we stop, find our true self, and become a person who enjoys their life despite the usual struggles?

Watch the Movie Based on this Novel

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    • Didge profile image

      Didge 

      6 years ago from Southern England

      What a fantastic hub: Thank you for sharing.

    • John Daffodils profile image

      John Daffodils 

      6 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      Ghost World is my favorite movie and my favorite graphic novel, I'm so happy that someone else sees the magic in its symbolism!

    • brittanytodd profile imageAUTHOR

      Brittany Kennedy 

      6 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

      Thank you so much, Derdrie. This graphic novel is very interesting as it is very minimal, using only two colors to communicate the author's vision. Thank you for reading/voting up/etc.

    • profile image

      Derdriu 

      6 years ago

      Britt: What a cogent, compact, concise analysis of a graphic novel which manages to raise profound questions through its visually strong format! Graphic novels make me think of pictures which can act and talk through what the authors have in mind.

      Thank you for the ever powerful analysis, voted up, etc.,

      Derdriu

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 

      6 years ago from Texas

      Thanks for a very thorough answer.

    • brittanytodd profile imageAUTHOR

      Brittany Kennedy 

      6 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

      A graphic novel is much like a comic book. They use the same format, but like a TV show, a comic book is published in series and you have to wait for them to come out each month. Graphic novels are sometimes entire comic book series put into one book (i.e. Watchmen). I think reading a graphic novel is engaging because it tells you a story with two layers, images and text. You can read more about this in my V for Vendetta book report (the one that was chosen for the Hub of the Day). Thanks for reading and bringing up an interesting question.

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 

      6 years ago from Texas

      I have read some books that also were written as graphic novels. I often wondered if they told the same story. Or if one was better than the other. Is reading a graphic novel kind of like reading a comic book?

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