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Deeper Analysis

A Picture Through History

In the short excerpt of “The Falling Man,” author Tom Junod uses a photograph to describe a deeper tragedy that exists within aspects of history, such as September 11th, 2001. In one of life’s “scariest” moments, Junod captures the inevitability of human tragedy by photographing an unknown man as he jumps from the towers through vivid imagery. This allows perspective to change and be witnessed in context. As Junod photographed the man, he made is last effort to escape the terror above him.By describing the man and the life around him in New York in this way, it allows a different perspective to be developed, giving value to being a modern photographer to capture history regardless of the terror or helplessness it may represent. Through intense sensory details, characterization, and descriptions relating back to motives for the man’s actions, the personal account of Junod describes a deeper nuanced image into deeper imagery that exists in the photograph.  

In “The Falling Man,” Junod spends the majority of the first paragraph describing the characterization of the unknown man in depth to develop further context. By describing specifically how the man “[d]oes not feel intimidated.. by what awaits him.” A calm understanding which is in contrast to the grim reality that awaits the unknown man as he is doomed to fall to the earth, regardless of how long he is suspended in photography. This specific detail exists as a direct contrast of the actions of the people who had fallen before the Falling Man. According to Junod, many of them had all struggled with the “Discrepancies of Scale,” as they fell to their deaths. This helps to insinuate the inner thoughts of the man who can not truly be known, yet it captures his acceptance of what was coming. Once he can accept reality and realize that mortality is definite, he makes a choice to accept an almost certain fate. Junod is able to paint this vivid picture and decision of the Falling man by characterizing him as being “Free” in decision making. He seemed to be “Getting on with it,” says Junod as opposed to waiting for finding an escape. By capturing the inner freedom in the Falling man’s choice, he highlights freedom that exists within when faced with true hopelessness. 

Throughout the body of the first paragraph and transitioning to the second of the excerpt, Junod begins to mesh characterization of the Falling Man with the true context surrounding him to establish the horror of being a photographer while capturing resignation. By highlighting expressed detail of the clothing, mannerisms, and nature of the falling man, Junod brings attention to these small details as he falls. Unknowingly, the falling man creates a geometric balance between both towers. “He splits them, vertically, and so is in accord with the lines of the building behind him,” says Junod. He effectively creates a new flag, a banner with the tower behind him. While the picture can be left widely to personal interpretation, Junod highlights the image as a flag, a true sense of freedom only through this resignation of death. In a situation of absolute hopelessness and terror, many would be scared to see freedom exist in desperate times. This man acts as a free deliverer of his own destiny regardless of anything else that may be left, in a chilling way.  

The development of the Falling Man is carried out with such short effectiveness ultimately due to its heavy outlining of point of view. Junod is able to use his diction effectively to identify aspects of the point of view of the Falling Man and create a deeper image through a small excerpt. By shifting objective perspectives through mixing different sentence structures, Junod is able to create a shift in point as well as a tonal shift.Junod creates the shift by elaborating on the “Banner, composed entirely of steel bars in the shining sun,” by the Falling Man. He then transitions by describing the messages that the picture conveys with the aspects of stoicism and willpower that exist in the photo. Some see “A portrait of resignation; others see something else-something discordant and therefore terrible: freedom,” Junod writes when describing different interpretations of the picture of the Falling Man. By shifting perspectives with these two sentences the messages surrounding freedom and resignation are more apparent and therefore create a stronger overall message. By including this imagery Junod expands the realm of possible interpretation by including this claim, as readers can picture the flag created by the man between the two towers simultaneously as he falls while considering aspects of freedom highlighted by the man. By demonstrating the man’s acceptance of fate and mortality through his actions Junod is able to bring attention to the fearlessness and freedom the man exemplifies in his choices to create a new “Flag of Freedom,” orchestrated by the man by falling carelessly free.

Through creative interpretation Junod highlights many of the hidden aspects of the actions of the Falling Man. The vivid sensory details spread through the excerpt paint a picture into the freedom and stoicism exerted by the man and his choices made to jump. Ultimately, Junod characterized the man in appearance and careless demeanor by displaying aspects he captured by photographing him during his descent. With these deep aspects of characterization and imagery through examples such as the geometric flag and the man’s clothing he expands the realm of interpretation and therefore sees the deeper, true meaning of the work. A true freedom that can exist within someone when facing death, nuanced by the aspects of the Falling Man’s path Junod chooses to highlight in his excerpt. Through this constant meshing of vivid details with characterization the picture into the last moments of Falling Man becomes clear in a deeper, darker context.       

Work Cited

Junod, Tom. “The Falling Man.” Esquire, vol. 140, no. 3,

Sept. 2003, pp. 176+. Gale Academic OneFile Select,

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