Lionel’s secret mission: the search for his identiy

Dear Mr.Norton,
I am very pleased to be able to help out and make this novel into movie and I look forward to it. My suggestion to capture the main idea of the novel is to concentrate on the main character, Lionel Essrog, for he is the most important character that we, as audience, easily get attached to. We know his feelings inside and out because we are aware of the thoughts he has even though the way he acts does not express it. This is why we sympathize so much with him. We feel that despite his condition, he is just like all of us. Someone who needs love, acceptance and independence. Lionel Essrog was cursed with uncontrollable and unpredictable tics due to his Tourette’s. In the eyes of the others, he is some kind of freak, weird and crazy man. Because of this, that is how he defines himself for he did not discover yet of the existence of his condition. He suffers from low self-esteem and constantly feels like a nuisance to everyone around him. His random outbursts might capture their attention at first. Yet, we can see that he knew that they would forget all about him the minute he was gone as he says: “A touretter can also be an invisible man” (p.44). His tics were just an echo and soon enough he was back to living in the shadows. We know however that Lionel is not crazy, because we are aware of his thoughts and condition. For that is the reason we are rooting for him. In the end, he just wants to fit in just like us.

Lionel suffered from self-identity because he had no explanation for the way he acted like randomly having the urge to kiss random boys in school or randomly screaming words. He felt abnormal which caused him to be alienated. Until one day, Frank Minna gave him a book that gave meaning for his mysterious tics. Since then, Lionel defined himself mainly by his Tourette’s: “Tourette’s was my other name…”(p.110). Despite having a reliable reason for his inappropriate bursts, he still remained insecure about it and among others things as he states: “… I wasn’t tough, provocative, self-destructive, sexy… I was merely crazy.” (p.84) I believe we all have our insecurities and most of the times we choose to see the worst in ourselves than the best. We can all relate to this, because we usually define ourselves by how others perceive us and that’s what make us look down on ourselves. However, Frank was always the person that encouraged him to put his Tourette’s to good use and that made Lionel more comfortable about it: “… Minna licensed my speech, and speech, it turned out, liberated me from the overflowing disaster of my Tourettic self, turned out to be the tic that satisfied where others didn’t, the scratch the briefly stilled the itch” (p.57). This made Lionel feel that he does not need to prevent himself from holding back from blurting out random words, which were a big part of who he is. He would finally give in to his tics to soothe that itch by understanding and accepting more his condition.

The day Frank Minna gets killed, Lionel felt guilty for not being able to save him, therefore he decides to find the murderer. Frank was the man he felt that he owed so much to ever since he made him discover his Tourette’s. Frank was the person to fill out a missing piece of his identity. When he died, in a way, Lionel felt like he lost a part of himself, because Minna gave him a sense of identity and purpose with his tics. Frank was a very important person to him and all the Minna men. Personally, I felt the strong attachement to Frank as well because I know he was a fatherly figure for them.They strongly admired him and they were loyal to him: “Minna Men stands behind Minna… Minna Men follow instructions. Minna men try to be like Minna, but Minna is dead.”(p.90) Yet, once he was gone, the Minna Men were lost and did not trust each other anymore. It’s as if they were all knotted together thanks to Minna, for he was one of the few things that the boys had in common. Other than the jobs they were assigned to do, they never really bonded together. So Lionel decides to find the killer on his own without relying on the rest of the group. He wants to prove that he is capable of taking the situation in hand despite his condition. This leads Lionel to also being on the search to find his true self-identity.

Throughout his adventure, we can definitely see that Lionel tries to act like Frank Minna,by wearing the watch, the beeper and even by the way he answers on the phone: ” ‘Tony, it’s me,’ I said. ‘Essrog’. That was the way how Minna always started a phone call: Lionel, it’s Minna.” By imitating Frank, this makes Lionel become more independent and assertive. As I’ve said, Lionel ties his identity mostly to his Tourette’s but he was embracing it now on his own: “I was a freak of nature” (p.265).
From the beginning, we pictured him as weak, innocent and spineless, yet he proves us wrong and surprises us by his actions. He found a short-term love on his own despite his lack of experience in women. For the first time, he was far away from New York City more than he has ever been which symbolizes that he is pushing the limits of his comfort zone. Finally facing, his ultimate enemy, the giant, surprisingly he was able to escape leaving him unconscious in the car. These scenes show a very courageous and daring side of Lionel. We see that he has become a confident determined and fearless detective. Especially, the part when he and Julia are found pointing guns at each other. It is very powerful because it is definitely not something anyone would expect. Even Julia was surprised:” ‘Don’t hurt me Lionel’. She backed away, her shocked eyes framed by the bristly halo of her crew cut…” (p.302).
Furthermore, regarding one of the last scene where the L&L group are playing poker and listening to some music is really symbolic. Poker is obviously a game played on a guy’s game night and this represents the bonding between the Minna Men. There is a sense of ease and comfort within the them. With Frank gone, it was as if they didn’t have to pretend anymore to be something they are not. Everything just fell into place. For instance, Lionel is not trying to be the leader or act like Frank, because that’s not who he is. He is the Freakshow of the group and that’s how he was meant to be. The L&L accepted him the way he was and so did Lionel himself.

This concludes that regarding the movie, I believe we should focus a lot on Lionel’s character because it shows his evolution that allowed him to finally have a more definitive identity. One that does not involve his Tourette’s or the way Frank expects him to be. Lionel always did what he was told to but this time he took everything in his own hands and that’s what allowed him to become the detective he was meant to be. We thought at the beginning that maybe Lionel’s quest was to find love when he met Kimmery. It felt as if she loved him the way he is but she didn’t. It was too overwhelming for her. However, I believe his real quest was to find himself, then he would be able to love and be loved for who he truly is. Finally, he was able to achieve this on his own and that is how he truly found people like the Minna Men who understood his ways and took him as he is.

I hope this idea can be of great help. Thank you for your time and for this opportunity Mr. Norton.

Sincerly,

Jemirille Bajala-Tuazon

Work cited: 

  • Lethem, Jonathon. Motherless Brooklyn. Vintage, 2000.

 

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