Wednesday, 19 December 2012


It is midwinter in a lonely town in Wisconsin, and we find ourselves deeply immersed in Craig Thompson's tale of first relationships, teenage isolation and religion. I find that graphic novels are an often overlooked art form in the UK, yet they can often be as complex and moving as any other form of established literature. One which I keep returning to is Blankets; unashamedly honest and autobiographical in its subject matter, Blankets traces Thompson's development from an introverted child growing up in a repressively Christian family, to a young person finding freedom and artistic inspiration in his first romantic relationship. Thompson manages to approach these often clichéd subjects without a hint of over-sentimentality. Instead, we are given a highly personal account of the conflicts faced by someone convinced that there is more in life to than what is immediately perceived. The book exposes the battle between his burgeoning desire to become an artist, and his loyalty to a strictly religious upbringing which doesn't value the arts. Meanwhile, the nostalgic account of Thompson's first relationship will resonate with everyone who reads it. 

When writing of his teenage years, Thompson draws a parallel between the act of growing up, and Plato's parable of the cave. At the beginning of our lives we are exposed to a certain kind of reality - that which we immediately perceive as we grow up, shaped by our upbringing, our home town and our parents' beliefs. We remain largely unaware of the world 'out there' as we only encounter the small universe of our youth, and the security of a first love which we believe will last forever. Yet Thompson's growing independence from his upbringing and religion, along with the gradual dissolution of his relationship, is likened to the prisoner being freed from his bonds. He realises that there is more to what we can experience than what is initially perceived. The shock of this new reality is intimidating, often overwhelming, yet necessary. 
Following the cycle of the seasons, we find ourselves a year later once again deeply immersed in a rural Winter, yet this time the blankets of snow have covered everything afresh.

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