Dear Ed Nortan,
It has come to my attention that you would like to adapt the novel “Motherless Brooklyn” into a film. I am sending you this formal letter to tell you that if you do not highlight these aspects of the novel, your film will lack depth and meaning. The core conflict of this story is man versus society, and this is what adds depth and meaning to this principally. As the novel goes, we are introduced to the character of Lionel Essrog, he is an orphaned child who has turrets. At the beginning of this novel, it is already clear that he is not a person who meshes well with all those around him “Until rescued by Frank Minna I lived, as I said, in the library”.(37) As the novel goes, it comes clearly to the reader that Lionel is constantly the one man out. It is because of his turrets that people don’t see him as being worth anything. Not to mention, the he is an orphan as well, so this makes the conflict more appearing that Lionel is only fighting for a chance to matter, or a possibility to fit in with the crowed.
Once Lionel meets Frank Minna and his Minna men, the typical day to day for Lionel changes, and he finally finds someone who knows him more for himself, than as an outcast “It was Minna who brought me the language, Minna and the Court Street that let me speak”. The fact that Lionel can be a part of this new band of abandoned orphans is symbolism for him getting the family he has never had. It is now to them that he must prove himself to, it is them that actually make a difference to Lionel now.
A literary genre that becomes very crucial to the conflict is the protagonist’s narrative, and how it allows us understanding the inner conflict that Lionel must face as well. “Tourette’s teaches you what people will ignore and forget, teaches you to see the reality-knitting mechanism people employ to tuck away the intolerable, the incongruous the disruptive—it teaches you this because you’re the one lobbing the intolerable, incongruous, and disruptive their way”(43) by having the chance to see into the mind of Lionel shows more colour to how Lionel becomes part of the world around him. Being that Lionel wants to be a part of the society around him, he struggles to keep his turrets from describing who he really is. It is almost like Lionel in that way is fighting both himself and fighting those around him. This core and secondary conflict fit into each other nicely especially and allow the reader to fall deeper into the story being that every scene has underlying properties.
Now ensues the problem that Lionel’s boss is murdered, and he must now find out who killed him. “Minna Men follow instructions, Minna Men try to be like Minna, but Minna is dead” (90) As his only father figure is taken away from him, Lionel’s whole life changes. Without his boss, Lionel now feels that he is responsible for Minna getting killed, and to find the murderer because the bond between him and Minna was much more special than that of the others and Minna. This is because Lionel actually relied on Minna to guide him into being accepted, allowed him to accept himself. Minna was even the reason Lionel understands his turrets, so now Lionel must be just as good as any of his other Minna Men or even better to catch the killer. That is when we see Lionel becomes his own character. Rather than running errands for Minna or following directions from Tony, Lionel now makes his own decisions on what he is to do next. From that Lionel’s character is developed in a whole different light. Instead of being a character that is always attached to another, never really important when on his own, he is now a changed man. Now, Lionel becomes forthright, self-confident, and sure that he will know what’s best because he knew Minna better than anyone else. Its with that development that the story shows a deeper meaning on Lionel’s character being the one that is always underestimated, when in reality, Lionel is easily one of the smartest individuals from the story.
The fact of the matter is that Lionel Essrog’s character has wheels upon wheels, he undergoes a change from beginning to end of this novel. As his character changes with the situation, we see Lionel become more in depth with is turrets, and with himself. He finds peace in the fact that he is not Frank Minna, and he is not like his colleagues, rather he becomes his own unique character that may no longer need acceptance from anyone else, rather he will just take life as it comes to him. “Tell your story walking”(311) came out as the last phrase, and an image goes with it that the story worth listening to is the one that develops itself into something, and not remain the same.
Lethe, Jonathan. Motherless Brooklyn. New York: Doubleday, 1999. Print.