Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Tom Phillips: A Humument, Page 131
On page 131 of Tom Phillips’ A Humument, Phillips creates this peaceful image, transmitting hope and courage to the ones who have given up and life to the ones who live in the darkness. The first images that catches the eye on this page are, what appears to be, three butterflies. These three butterflies are not drawn with the exact form of the insect but later on when reading the poem, the word “moth” is a hint towards what the images are. Phillips uses pastel colors for each butterfly, such as red/pink, green, and yellow. These colors give the butterflies a calm, almost peaceful appearance. A thin black outline surrounds each butterfly, except for the yellow one. It looks as if the outline were a wall, preventing them from coming out. The yellow butterfly, on the other hand, seems to be breaking that ‘wall’ or outline, like it were setting itself free.
These small details are accompanied by the words that Phillips uses on the Humument. Phillips starts by saying, “hamed of your derness terness” which at first appear to be unknown words that were thrown together in a phrase, but with no intention of creating a meaning. After reading it a couple times, it seems as if what Phillips really meant to say was “ashamed of your…” Then he writes, “You have made my moth fect her soul.” Combining these two phrases, or thoughts, together, Phillips explains how by hiding, or being ashamed of who you are will ‘infect’ your soul; or in other words it will kill you inside. Phillips uses the moth which turns into a butterfly to symbolize freedom. He demonstrates how a moth will be infected or hurt if it keeps itself trapped and afraid to open up. These words describe the picture of the red/pink butterfly with the outline surrounding it. The color he uses on the butterfly can be symbolized as feelings of anger or of embarrassment, going back to where Phillips used the word ‘hamed’ or “ashamed.” The outline can also be symbolized as the butterfly’s shadow. Phillips uses the words “from her shades” to describe the outline.
The other words that are written more towards the end of the page are used to describe the yellow butterfly. This is so because of the position in which Phillips drew the butterfly and wrote the phrases. On the top of the paper, the first phrases are written beside the red/pink butterfly. Then on the middle of the page, the next few phrases are written beside the yellow butterfly. This same pattern also happens with the last butterfly, which is not entirely drawn, but still shows half of it’s body on the bottom right corner of the page.
The yellow butterfly, unlike the other, does not have an outline that completely surrounds itself. It has a gap in the middle, where the both ends do not connect, but instead they make an opening, almost as if the butterfly was breaking through it. The color of the butterfly, yellow, symbolizes the sun, which in many cases is a symbol of life. The words that accompany this butterfly’s action are “that Moth Great simple life simple life.” These words explain how simple life could be if we break through that wall or when we stop hiding in the shadow. A butterfly itself is a symbol of liberty and happiness; so in order for the happiness to take its place its necessary to overcome the obstacles, or these walls, as the yellow butterfly did.
The last words on the page are, “And one only- my soul children out My been and suffering moth.” These words are accompanied by the green butterfly, which appears to be leaving because it was only half drawn. The words describe how at last all the suffering and pain will leave once you step up and out of the shadow. Phillips uses the word children to symbolize hope. Children are usually looked at as a signal that there’s still hope. Adults look up to the children, hoping that they will be the ones to make a difference.
Analyzing the page closely, the three butterflies also appear to be the signal lights. The red is a sign for you to stop and analyze everything around you deciding whether you should make a change, the yellow is a sign for you to cautiously make your choices, and the green is a sign for you to go and not be scared to step out of the ‘outline’ and start over.