Blog Post One

The 1996 film, Fargo rotates its story through comedy, suspense, and violence. The filmmakers took enormous risks and made an original movie that’s universally relatable. Fargo is an Aristotelian tragedy, “Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in the language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation-catharsis of these and similar emotions.” (Poetics, P.10)

Tragedy’s aim is to shake up in the soul the impulses of pity and fear, to achieve what Aristotle calls Catharsis. The emotions of pity and fear find a free outlet in tragedy. Their excess is purged, and we are lifted out of ourselves and emerge with a refreshed outlook. The Plot is the most important part of tragedy. The Characters are the men and women who act. Thought is what the characters think or feel throughout their screen time in the development of the plot. Diction is the medium of language or expression through which the characters reveal their thoughts and feelings. The diction should be ‘embellished with each kind of artistic element’. The Song is one of these embellishments. Lastly, The Spectacle is the theatrical effect presented on the stage.

Fargo’s plot begins with Jerry making arrangements to have his wife kidnapped. His intent is to shake his father-in-law of $80,000 to then split the cash with the hired kidnappers. The plot quickly takes a turn, or a reversal, when the hired kidnappers get pulled over and three people end up dead. Due to this reversal, Fargo’s plot is complex, meaning the opposite of what is desired seeks to manifest. Jerry desires to make just enough cash to land him a deal and financial stability at the sacrifice of “pretending” to kidnap his wife and his fathers-in-law’s wallet. However, destiny plays out and Jerry loses his wife, his father-in-law, and his freedom.

We can easily fall short of understanding Fargo’s true message by feeling too much pity for the hardworking car salesman who only seeks to bring financial freedom to himself and the daughter of a wealthy man who he feels pressure from and ends up losing it all. The more meaningful protagonist to discuss is Marge Gunderson. Marge is a highly relatable protagonist whose strength comes from her unwavering loyalty to those she loves. She appears 33 minutes into the movie, but she represents the thesis – innocence can withstand corruption. She immediately deduces the first crime scene, and then never falls far behind in piecing together the criminal’s traces. The Thought, Diction, Song, and The Spectacle of this character are spot on. She is on the hunt for murderous culprits, all the while pregnant, an artistic husband whom she seems to support financially, with a sense of humor that stems from her honest sincerity.

“So that was Mrs. Lundegaard on the floor in there. And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper. And those three people in Brainerd. And for what? For a little bit of money. There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’tcha know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well. I just don’t understand it.” Even though she can’t relate to the motives of the corrupt, she proves that innocence can withstand evil.

Blog Post #1 – Fargo as an Aristotelian Tragedy

The Coen Brother’s 1996 film Fargo is an excellent example of an Aristotelian tragedy. Aristotle defines tragedy as:

“an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not narrative; through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions” (Aristotle, VI).

In this story, you’ll find several qualities that align with Aristotle’s definition and components of tragedy. The first and most important being the plot. The plot of Fargo carries some severe consequence as one of the main characters, Jerry Lundegaard, makes the horrible decisions to have his wife kidnapped in order to receive a ransom from his affluent, glower father in law. Jerry fits the character of someone who has a small ego but is likable, decent reputation but is not perfect; someone who is the same or might have similar qualities to most viewers.

On the Freytag pyramid, the rising action and first complication in the dramatic structure of the story is introduced when the two kidnappers get pulled over with Jerry’s wife Jean, who is tied up in the trunk of the car. To avoid the state trooper from searching the car, Gaear Grimsrud shot and killed the officer.

At this time, you can now see a moment of reversal in Carl Showalter face (the accomplice).  Aristotle defines reversal as

“a change by which the action veers round to its opposite, subject always to our rule of probability or necessity” (Aristotle, XI).

Carl Showalter thought he would be able to talk and bribe his way out of being searched by the state trooper, contrary to his expectations, he was unsuccessful and has now rendered himself an accessory to murder. This is an example of how the plot escalated, evolved and continued as a complex story; a complex action is one in which the change is accompanied by such Reversal, or by Recognition, or by both (Aristotle, X).

-Ceenan Calzadilla

Blog Post One

The movie Fargo can certainly be classified as an Aristotelian tragedy. Plot is usually seen as the most important element in a tragedy, so we will start there. Aristotle says that, “Plots are either Simple or Complex” (Aristotle, X). A simple plot is defined as a story without a reversal of the situation, while a complex story is one with a reversal. Aristotle defines a reversal of the situations as, “a change by which the action veers round to its opposite” (Aristotle, XI). This simply means that a character’s actions lead to the opposite results they intended. This is the core of the movie Fargo’s plot. Our primary protagonist is Jerry Lundegaard, who finds himself in desperate need of money, so he hires a couple men to fake kidnap his wife so he can squeeze money out of his father-in-law. This decision leads to the death of his wife, father-in-law, and half a dozen innocent strangers. This reversal of the situation is also apparent in one of the men Jerry hires, Carl. At the end of the movie, Carl manages to get the ransom money (which is far more than he planned), but instead of skipping town immediately, he gets greedy and tries to swindle his partner out of a new car. This leads to his unstable partner murdering him. Another important element is the recognition. The recognition is, “is a change from ignorance to knowledge, producing love or hate between the persons destined by the poet for good or bad fortune.” (Aristotle, XI). This can be demonstrated by two different characters, Jerry and Marge. With Jerry, the moment of recognition happens when he discovers his father-in-law’s body. Before this moment he was unaware of how dangerous Carl and Gaear are. After this moment, he flees the area, eventually leading to the bad fortune of being arrested in a motel room. Marge’s moment of recognition comes after Jerry dodges the second interview with her. She goes from thinking Jerry is an annoying car salesman to a suspect. This later leads to bad fortune for Jerry and good fortune for her. These clear reversals of the situation and moments of recognition show that Fargo is a tragedy with complex plot.

-Ryan Mariotti

Blog #1 June 25th

In the short work Poetics, Aristotle describes every tragedy possessing six parts, plot, character, diction, thought spectacle, and song (1997:VI). The plot is described as “the soul of the tragedy,” while the characters imitate the action of the tragedy (1997:VI). Diction represents “the expression of the meaning of words,” and thought is “something proved to be or not to be” (1997:VI). Finally, song is described as instrumental in enhancing in a tragedy, while spectacle is viewed as dependent on the power of the tragedy (1997:VI). 

The 1996 film Fargo can best be described as a complex plot, in which “its actions are accompanied by reversal, recognition, or both” (1197:VI). Reversal of the situation, or “a change in which action veers round to its opposite,” is demonstrated in Fargo by its central characters Jerry, Carl, and Gaear (1997:XI). Jerry attempts to swindle his father in law out of one million dollars, but in the end, his wife and father in law are both killed, he looses all of the ransom money, and ultimately is taken into police custody. Carl and Gaear are hired to kidnap Jerry’s wife for eighty thousand dollars; however, after a series of unplanned events, Carl is killed by Gaear after almost getting away with more money than he bargained for, and Gaear is hauled away by police in connection with numerous murders. All three of these characters represent a reversal of the situation by unintended and unplanned circumstances, inevitably lead to their arrest or death. 

Recognition is “a change from ignorance to knowledge and combined with reversal will produce either pity or fear” (1997:XI). Recognition is illustrated by Fargo‘s characters Jerry and Marge. After Jerry becomes aware that his kidnapping plan could possibly be avoided, he internalizes much regret and fear as he attempts to stop the kidnapping. Once Jerry becomes aware that his kidnapping scheme is in motion, he struggles to cover his tracks only to be arrested kicking and screaming at the end of the film. Marge demonstrates clear recognition by stellar police work that allows her to solve the murder cases in her town and identify her suspects. 

Finally, Aristotle also describes tragedy’s as having a distinct beginning, middle, and end, in which the beginning “does not itself follow anything by causal necessity, but after which something naturally is or comes to be” (1997:VII). Fargo begins by instantly divulging Jerry’s plan to Carl and Gaear in the tavern, and then concludes with the exciting incident of the kidnapping followed by the murder of three civilians. The middle opens with Marge getting involved in the case and concluding with Jerry becoming a suspect. The end described by Aristotle is “that which itself naturally follows some other thing, either by necessity, or a rule, but has nothing following it” (1997:VII). Fargo‘s ending act stems from the film’s previous events and concludes with Marge in bed with her husband unwinding following an eventful day at work and concluding the story for all of the characters. 

-Michael Cortez