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“City Lights” is the remarkable film of the legendary actor and director Charles Chaplin. The romantic comedy represents the heartwarming sentiment, sound, style, irreverence, farce, as well as the melodramatic and social elements, for which the legendary director is well-known to movie enthusiasts. Chaplin always wanted to demonstrate the great beauty of silence on the screen and succeeded. The paper seeks to examine one of the best films in the history of cinematography, “City Lights”, particularly the social status of its main characters, its representation, the portrayal of the irony of life, and determine whether the story reflects the society of that time.
One of the major personages, the Tramp, is the social outsider who gets acquainted with a wealthy man and young homeless woman. Incapacities and different statuses of the heroes allow them to form relationships with each other (City Lights). In any other case, they would never act this way. If the millionaire was sober, he would not get acquainted with the Tramp. However, due to his drunkenness, the rich man befriends him. The young woman also welcomes the outsider as a friend. Due to her blindness, the girl acts irrationally and hastily. If she could see the Tramp, she would probably ignore him.
In “City Lights”, Chaplin highlights the sociological aspect, particularly social divisions. No middle class is presented in this romantic comedy. While the two characters are poor an isolated to some extent, the third one is rich and prosperous; he belongs to the elite class. The division in the silent film reflects the widespread stereotype that also characterizes the society of that time. The credibility of social classes portrayed by Chaplin is obvious as the director depicts the ways of living of poor and rich people, the values they share, and the way they interact with each other due to material and gender inequalities.
The blind girl, as well as the Tramp, belongs the lowest social stratum. Action, conversations, facial expressions, gestures and the appearance of the personages reflect their belonging to the particular class. The majority of movie enthusiasts are satisfied with the fact that rich people get the worst. The main reason is that the majority of people belong to the lower class and barely make ends meet, while the wealthy minority prospers. The materialistic component of this phenomenon poses a great challenge to poor people. They are forced to face socio-economic difficulties, including poverty and marginalization, due to inequality and prejudice from upper-class individuals. Such a situation was relevant in the 1930s and it remains topical in the 2010s, as nothing has changed, and the social class divisions still exist.
Ironically, moral and physical blindness allows the young girl and the millionaire to see the genuine Tramp. This poor man with a golden heart and an empty wallet saves the life of a rich comrade and seeks to risk everything to give the blind ggirl a chance to see, even though he loses her as a friend (City Lights). Emotions overwhelm the viewer during the unforgettable final scene. The audience anticipates it and wonders whether Chaplin will end it blissfully or ironically. Through comedy and pathos, the director tries to make every scene emotional. The creation of such personage as the Tramp helps to combine such aspects as irony and social criticism on the screen. The story precisely reflects the society of that time, as the issues of prejudice due to the difference in statuses have been prevalent, and they have made it difficult to resolve bias. Chaplin has created the comic world that has radically changed the spectators’ view of reality. The audience may also feel guilty since their daily lives are unfair, and, at the same time, they will try to find a hero, who will represent their ideals.
“City Lights” has deservedly gained triumph and recognition despite Chaplin’s anxiety. It is justly regarded as the greatest silent film and heartwarming romantic comedy. By focusing on the Tramp, the director highlights and expresses his view on the human caprices. The everyday life of the social outsider and the famous comic character is full of injustice and triumph. Despite irony and comedy, Charles Chaplin emphasizes the harsh circumstances of life in the film thus reflecting what he might have once experienced. This outstanding film exposes injustice, inequality and bias, which characterize the way people live and treat other members of the society.