Week 1: Chaplin and Shire (Due 6/4)

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And we’re off! Your mission will be to respond to my questions, as well as to a classmate’s observation. Throughout our course, I will be reading and responding to all of your great comments, sometimes piecemeal as they occur and sometimes in a wrap-up post that draws the threads together.  Try to keep abreast of posts and responses, including those of your classmates. In your own post, references to texts, films, and current events outside the confines of our syllabus are most welcome.

This course concerns storytelling on the page and on the screen; this week is a very abbreviated crash course in film history, shots, and angles. We’re purposely beginning with a shorter text and film as next week we have a longer pairing.  I recommend beginning to read A Raisin in the Sun (see Weekly Schedule).

Discussion Questions: Answer 1 question from each of the 3 sections below, in the REPLY below this post. Aim for 3 paragraphs total.

The Immigrant: (Use details and time stamps from the film to support your points. )

  1. Summarize the plot of the film in your own words. What do you think Chaplin is trying to convey about immigration, NYC, and the United States? (Support your answer with details from the film). Is the story familiar or foreign in 2021?
  2. What are the different moods and emotions Chaplin evokes throughout the film? Cite specific scenes and tools he uses to accomplish this (music, plot, blocking). Why is each mood important?
  3. After viewing the video on blocking and composition, re-watch a scene from the movie. Describe the camera angles and types of shots Chaplin is using, and what effects they have on the understanding of a scene. Include the time stamp range (ex: 5:06-8:03) of the excerpt you’re discussing.
  4. As a viewer, how did you respond to the film? What were some of your emotions and reactions while watching? What did you like or dislike?


  1. Summarize the poem in your own words. What do you think Shire is trying to convey about immigration? How do you know this? (Cite specific lines)
  2. Who is the “speaker” of the poem, and who is the intended audience? How do you know this? (Cite specific lines)
  3. What literary devices does Shire employ to convey her point? Cite line #s to support your response. See this site for a guide to figurative language and device: https://literarydevices.net/figurative-language/
  4. As a reader, how did you respond to the poem? What were some of your emotions and reactions while reading? Choose a particular quote that you found compelling. Copy and paste it, then explain why it moved you. Cite the line numbers (ex: lines 14-16)  and include a /   in between each line break.

Larger-Landscape Questions:

  1. What can we learn from studying these works side by side?
  2. Why do we watch films? Why do we study the humanities? Will you be returning to movie theaters now that they are opening again?
  3.  Do you follow the Academy Award nominations and ceremony each year? What do you think of this organization? Any thoughts to share on the awards of the past several years?


  1. alex

    Throughout the film Chaplin evokes moods/emotions such as depression, huger, dissatisfaction, boredom, and anger to emphasize that immigration is a long process that requires patience and can affect a person mentally or physically.
    The poem HOME is about migration, and the struggle Shire had to face as a refuge. What shire is trying to convey is that migrating isn’t the most pleasing thing but it’s what one has to do in order to escape from the problems back home and based on the reading Shire states “drown save be hunger beg forget pride your survival is more important “. Which shows that one’s life becomes more important during circumstance like this, people sacrifice themselves forgetting pride or not even eating which at this point is irrelevant for Shire since staying alive to find a place that is safe to be protected becomes the primary goal.
    What we can learn from studying these works side by side is that migration/ immigration is not a beautiful/ pleasant process but it is something that would lead to a better life. Although at the moment it doesn’t seem like it, since one has to make sacrifices along the journey which leave to memories/ moments in one’s life that would be hard to bear because of one had to face during a process of leaving their home.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Hi Alex,
      Good insight here on the comparison and contrast of these works. We are familiar with the narrative of the American Dream but the reality behind immigration can be far more daunting, and even impossible.

      *How* does Chaplin communicate to the viewer this range of emotions? What are some of the techniques he uses (camera shots and/or angles, music, setting, characterization, storyline) to communicate these moods to the viewer?

  2. Alondra Vences

    After watching “The Immigrant”, I had a lot of thoughts that came to mind. A lot of my family migrated from Mexico to the United States and I’ve always known that it wasn’t an easy process. Throughout the film, there are scenes where Chaplin was mistreated including the rest of the immigrants on the same boat as he was in. I felt very disappointed and angry because till this day many immigrants continue to be mistreated and misunderstood. I liked how they included the scenes where the head waiter was mistreating Chaplin based on his appearance because it showed how poorly immigrants are mistreated just based on their appearance. Overall, I enjoyed the film because I got the chance to view the perspective of an immigrant and the challenges they have to go through.
    When reading the poem “Home”, I tend to feel terrible knowing that many families go through such a hard time being in their home country. Families go through the struggle and fear on a daily basis and have to make the hard decision of leaving behind everything. “Home is the mouth of a shark”(line 2), this quote made me feel such sorrow because I honestly can’t imagine what it is like to feel fear and danger in my own home. I can’t imagine what people go through and then have the strength to decide they’re migrating to a new country.
    After studying both of these works side by side, we can learn that migration is not an easy experience. It takes a lot of strength and courage to have the need to move to another country knowing there will continue to be other types of struggles. Struggles that include discrimination and racism however, they know they’re in a safer country and have a bigger chance of having a better life.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Very wise and empathetic response here. You’re pointing to something very important in both Chaplin’s and Shire’s works: the lack of specificity of origin. We as viewers may see that the folks on the boat in Chaplin’s 1917 film appear Eastern European, and we may keep Shire’s background in mind as we read her words. But there is a universality in the mistreatment of immigrants and migrants in both works, which enables your moving connection of these stories with the stories of people you know. You might be aware that the photo I posted for Week 1 is the wall at the U.S./Mexico border.

      Consider jotting down some more notes about the film and poem and your relatives’ experiences– totally up to you, but this could make for a very moving and powerful Project 1 assignment.

  3. Farai Matangira

    The Immigrant:

    The film tells the story of the journey to the United States that an immigrant takes. It chronicles the many obstacles that the immigrants go through on the trip itself, as well as when they immediately arrive at their destination.
    Charlie Chaplin uses satire, romance, and irony to convey the challenges and experiences that immigrants go through when they relocate. He conveys the obstacles that they go through such as the rocking of the boat they were on, separation from the woman he fell in love with on the boat, and the money troubles as soon as they arrive.
    The social commentary in the film touches on the struggles of acceptance that many immigrants still face today. They at times feel unwelcome or unwanted and are outcasted because of their struggles with integrating into American culture. This usually leads to immigrants having to endure racism, discrimination, xenophobia, and hatred.


    Home is a poem about the forces that cause people to migrate from their homes. The poet tries to convey the experiences and trauma that cause people to seek refuge elsewhere. The speaker describes how people are willing to put themselves in the dangerous and humiliating situations that migrants face because what they face at home is much worse.

    By studying these works side by side we can learn to empathize with immigrants. They represent a story of sacrifice, determination, resilience, and braveness that can be great learning points for everyone. We are all on a journey seeking happiness and we should empathize with the efforts that people take in their attempts to be happy and live a better life.

    • Oliver Hadi

      Well said Farai, I would add to the summary of ‘Home’, that the way the author tries to find evoke empathy from the intended audience is by finding the common ground about home and family that is familiar and can be appreciated.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Truly excellent response here, Farai, in your attention to empathy. Are there particular lines from “Home” that speak to the “forces” you wisely describe here?

      You’re right to pick up on Chaplin’s uses of satire and irony. In which scenes would you say these come into play?

      The rocking of the boat was simulated by placing the camera on a sort of giant rocker (picture a rocking chair). Let’s all think about what this dining room scene, and the exaggerated comedy, might symbolize– the numerous ideas Chaplin is trying to convey.

  4. Brian Chan

    The Immigrant

    As a viewer, I found the film to be comically accurate. While it seems a bit silly, it strikes some accurate points very well. The film was great as it made me laugh, cry, and sad. One thing I liked about the film is the funny display of gambling habits the immigrants had and the part where one of the men pushes Chaplin back into his seat to continue gambling was something that caught my attention. Chaplin won the stack of cash and the other man wanted to try to win back his money so he tries to force Chaplin to continue gambling. Another thing I liked was Chaplin’s personality. He seems to be a person of kindness, especially after he finds out a woman’s mother lost her money. Chaplin proceeds to slip his own money into the woman’s pocket out of pity. Overall there wasn’t anything I disliked in the video. Even the hardships were displayed in a non serious yet understanding way.


    The poem is about running away from home to pursue a better life. However, the pursuit for freedom and happiness is halted by other issues such as racism and discrimination. I know this because the poem mentions, “no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.” Home is supposed to be a warm place that makes you feel safe. For a home to feel like the mouth of a shark is a major red flag. That’s not a home, its a prison. The poem also mentions, “messed up their country and now they want to mess ours up.” This is an example of racism, which unfortunately still exists today.

    From studying these works side by side, we can learn that immigrating is not an easy thing to do. You leave everything and everyone behind in hopes for a better future. There is no guarantee and odds are against you. The film makes immigration seem less frightening and harsh but the points are accurate regardless. However, the poem portrays immigration as a last resort. Just as how the film and poem portray immigration differently, immigration differs in its own right from person to person.

    • Yovanna

      I agree on what you said about the “immigrant”, it was funny how Chaplin relied on his lived experience as an immigrant to the United States and find the humor in otherwise tragic circumstances of moving to a new country… when it comes to “home” I see how you compared home to a prison, good one. And thanks to both the poem and the film, I figured immigrating is not an easy thing to do, I guess everybody has their own opinion, and situation they go through, however every immigrant can agree that migrating is hard.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Wise observations here, Brian. I appreciate your attention to Chaplin’s character development. As we learn from the restaurant scene, he is not a man of means, but he still tries to help others in any way he can. You’re right to pick up on Chaplin’s use of humor as a tool, or vehicle, for more serious messaging. What do you think his agenda is (in other words, why employ comedy about serious subject matter)?

      Your thoughts on “Home” here are grounded in Shire’s powerful opening lines. Why do you think she begins with this statement?

  5. Makai

    The Immigrant is definitely a short film that was made 100 years ago but can still be related to modern society. People often come to the U.S. from other countries to start a new life because life at home may be rough. In the film, you get a sense of the struggle immigrants goes through. They gamble for money so they won’t be broke and homeless.

    Chaplin’s character is a nice person who seemingly falls in love with a woman and when her mother’s money is taken he gives her a good chunk of the money he wins. He treated her like an actual human being. In today’s society immigrants are seen as a threat of “aliens”. I personally enjoyed the message the film was trying to convey.

    In the poem Home, the message is about leaving home to pursue a better life. In life, nothing is given on a silver platter. We are all told that we live in the land of freedom and everyone is treated equally but it’s not true. People of color get mistreated daily, and the media makes it seem like all people of color are threats. A line in the poem that really stuck out to me was “because prison is safer than a city of fire and one prison guard in the night is better than a truckload of men who look like your father no one could take it no one could stomach it no one skin would be tough enough”. Society is so bad that some people believe they’re safer in prison than being on the streets. Many immigrants feel like the U.S. is a safe place where they can be free and equal but in reality, it’s not always the case.

    • Alondra Vences

      Great work Makai! I definitely agree with your last sentence, it’s sad to say it’s true. Many immigrants do come with certain expectations and then end up in such bad situations. They deserve way more.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Very moving, astute commentary here. You are pointing to something very important: the color line– i.e. the racism that exists in the United States– and other countries– and the way in which that affects both those who are born here and those who arrive from other countries, in search of a better way of life.

      I especially appreciate your attention to language and noticing how people of color and migrants can be portrayed–the summers of 2017-2019 particularly come to mind, as migrants from Central and South America were described as a moving caravan of criminals, to stoke fear, division, and hatred. How politicians and the media portray people and events really matters.

  6. Ashley James

    I actually enjoyed The Immigrant way more than I expected to. The film was about the immigration journey to the United States and the hardships you were immediately faced with once reaching if you had no money or support. I think he was trying to convey that even though the United States is the land of opportunity with big cities like NYC, it won’t be easy to navigate through life and it relates to the saying it’s a “dog eat dog world”. When the customer was short 10 cents from his bill and the waiters beating him up(14:56), it was an example that even though it was just 10 cents , it’s a cruel world and not much sympathy will be given no matter who you are. The story is familiar in 2021 because there are still immigrants traveling to the US and going through far more danger to reach the land of opportunity and the chance of them getting caught and deported is higher.
    The poem “Home”depicted the fears, living conditions and danger that some faced that prompted them to leave their country, it also gave a glimpse of the hard immigration journey. I believe Shire wanted to depict that danger that some families actually go through to give a better understanding on why some immigrants migrated and not form the opinion of them just coming here with their hands out and take advantage of what’s to offer here in a negative way. ” No one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear saying-/leave/run away from me now/ i don’t know what i’ve become/but i know that anywhere/is safer than here” This was the ending of the poem but it spoke so much to me because it translated into run far away as you can or you won’t be alive much longer. This was just one of the many lines that depicted that the place that was considered “home” is no longer that safe haven, it is now this dangerous place that you want to get away from and leave behind.
    We can learn from studying these works side by side is that the immigration journey is hard and possibly dangerous, we can feel the emotions through watching and reading. The end result is to obtain a better life but the struggle to actually get to that end goal is not a pleasant one. I personally feel super blessed to be born here and not endure all of that turmoil, the hardships that I have faced and are facing does not compare to this. I am grateful that my immigrant family was able to come here and achieve their dreams safely but as sad as it is to say , this could’ve easily been my family to endure this.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Excellent work here. Like Alondra above, you responded with empathy to these stories and were able to make meaningful connections between Chaplin’s and Shire’s portrayals and the story of your own family. I don’t think we can ask for more from a text or reader/viewer response.

      I especially appreciate your understanding of Chaplin’s counterargument to NYC/ the U.S. being the land of opportunity. Where do you think Chaplin tries to articulate this point most directly (and perhaps satirically)?

  7. Cristina

    The Immigrant: As a viewer I enjoyed this film. Even though no one was speaking, you could understand the plot of the story. I was able to understand each character’s emotion and see what they were trying to express. Their facial expressions helped convey how they were feeling at the moment of each scene. I liked the music they had in the background because it brought in some type of audio into the film. If there wasn’t any noise, then I don’t think I would have been as interested. I also enjoyed some of the exaggerated actions they had throughout the film.

    Home: The poem “Home” describes many reasons why people decide to leave their home country and travel to a different one. Their home country isn’t a safe place for them to be in and that’s why they leave. If their home country isn’t safe then why should it be considered their “home.” A “home” is where one feels safe and comfortable. Shire is trying to explain why many immigrants decided to come to the United States looking for a better life. In the poem she states, “no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear saying leave, run away from me now I don’t know what I’ve become but I know that anywhere is safer than here.” They have valid reasons to come looking for a place that will give them a better/safer future.

    From studying these works side by side, we can understand how each artist shares their own opinions/ ideas. The main topic is similar, but they are expressed differently. Shire uses words to describe what she is feeling in regards to immigration and Chaplin acts to describe/show his perspective on immigration.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Great job discussing some of the tools Chaplin wields to convey his storyline: characters’ facial expressions, exaggerated emotions and physical comedy, and the soundtrack.

      You also wisely picked up on Shire’s negation of the word “home” in her impenetrable defense of migration and its perils and sacrifices.

      You have the beginnings of a paper here in your last comparison/ contrast statement–I encourage you to think further about the different creative devices (emotion, tone) C and S employ to get across their points.

  8. Justin Pope

    The Immigrant

    The plot of the movie “The Immigrant” involves immigrants on a boat and the exploration of the problems that they had to deal with. I think the message Chaplin is trying to convey is that the immigrants had a lower quality of life, they were often mistreated, and a lot of times poor. Charlie is also conveying how uncomfortable the boats were by showing them rocking while people were trying to rest and eat. He conveys the poverty at 21:50, where he steals from another person because he is too poor to afford his meal at a restaurant. The United States did not make the journey for the immigrants pleasant, and they may have had trouble adapting to NYC and being able to afford what they needed to survive.


    In the poem “Home”, Shire is explaining that many people leave their home and move to another country because home is no longer safe. They would be willing to endure insults and dirty looks in a different country because it is preferable to being unsafe in their home country. What I believe Shire is trying to convey about immigration is that many immigrants are trying to escape death or harm. They are not trying to steal from another country by immigrating there, they are trying to survive. On page 3, line 4-7, the poem reads, “but home is the mouth of a shark/home is the barrel of a gun/and no one would leave home/unless home chased you to shore”. This means that some immigrants do not want to leave home, but they are chased away from their home because it has become dangerous.

    From studying the works side by side, we can learn that immigration is a hard journey where many of them are just trying to survive. We can learn about the threats they face in their home country and about how dangerous and uncomfortable it can be for them to begin their journey. They can be mistreated, looked down upon, and have a hard time being able to afford what they need. They tolerate it because they believe that their survival is worth more than their pride.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Hi Justin,
      Wonderful attention to the metaphors Shire invokes to define home.

      You’re using a key word in your description of Chaplin’s work: adaptation. (This is a concept you could potentially discuss in Project 1 if you’re interested. ) We certainly see this in the Tramp’s habits at the restaurant– eating one bean at a time, using his knife in a different way, wearing his hat. Customs are different all over the world and Chaplin does a great job exploring how foreign and uncomfortable it feels to encounter something new and be expected to adapt.

  9. kezia king

    The immigrant.

    I actually read the immigrant last semester in my english drama literature intensive class and watched. We get to know the characters as immigrants who are struggling come to the U.S nyc and seeing even though it’s the land of dreams come true in a way, it’s not all that it’s pushed to be. It comes with struggles hard work and class systems and people who are already privilege while others have to work for it. We see times how Chaplin uses many literary devices and also shows us many symbolic things in the film to convey the greater idea of what immigrants had to go through. We see how hard things get in 19.45 when things get tougher and he can’t afford something as important as a meal. Even though there’s no talking the story itself shows so much about social issues, time, and the world.


    In the poem home I felt super sad, anxious, and understanding. We get a understanding of why people leave their own homes places they’ve known their whole life for other places that could be better for them . Seeking a place for safety and security and a better life elsewhere. The poem states

    “no one leaves home unless home chases you
    fire under feet
    hot blood in your belly
    it’s not something you ever thought of doing
    until the blade burnt threats into
    your neck”. (Home, shire)
    Here we see that people sometimes have no choice but to leave and run from their homes. Not just pressure but no choice and some have nothing in search for something, something better.

    Both works have a lot in common including talking about the hardships of what immigrants had to come to before and after coming to something as “ freeeing” as America. Both depicting the struggles and understanding of why people make the choices they do of leaving home and looking for something more. Studying the works side by side we can learn the understanding of struggle and choice.

    • Cristina

      I agree with both your points on the Immigrant and the poem Home. When people come to a new country they don’t have any resources. They struggle a lot and have to work twice as hard to get the life they deserve. The poem Home is also an eye opener for many people. Many aren’t aware of the struggles people have back home because we live in a country that offers us many opportunities.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Hi Kezia,
      Interesting points in your response here. Did you read the script for “The Immigrant,” and if so, do you think reading shed particular light on understanding of the film? You’re right to point to the class differences that Chaplin makes apparent even in the small setting of the restaurant. What would you say are some of the symbols he uses?

      Great attention to the idea of choice in Shire’s work– the lack thereof is super key– and to the idea of “freedom” in the United States sometimes being a fallacy.

      • kezia king

        I do think reading the script held shed light on understanding it more. It was more clear and I could understand it more and depth to me as opposed to the film which was very abstract at times. In the film a lot of things were also kind of left to my interpretation. Their were a lot of symbolism within the film including a lot of the comedic lines to hide the tone of the seriousness of it all.

  10. Yovanna

    The Immigrant:

    This film came out to be more interesting than what I expected. It consist of a story about an immigrant’s trip to the United States which emphasizes the numerous challenges that immigrants tend to face when they migrate to a different country, and have no support or money. The United States might be a country which offers a lot of better opportunities, however it comes with a high price; this film was funny yet sad at the same time, because the problems and hardships that immigrants face when they migrate are demonstrated with a touch of humor yet struggle, all at the same time. The immigrant describes the difficulties immigrants face and it teaches us how hard it is to start a new life in a country so different from your native country. The struggle we face such as racism, lack of support, and financial difficulties, as shown in this film, are still struggles that sadly immigrants have to go through on a daily basis to this day.


    When I read “Home” it made me realized how difficult it can be for families to return to their homeland. The poem “Home” is about those who sacrifice everything by leaving their homes behind while seeking of a better life and opportunities. Sadly families face struggles to the point that some have to end up having no other choice but to leave everything behind in order to get a better life. Having to start a new life in a different country can be harsh. This poem talks about the causes that drive people to leave their homes, to seek safety elsewhere. This is really sad, I can’t even image the being unsafe in what I call “home”. People are willing to put themselves in risk in order to avoid what they experience at their own “home”.

    From studying these works side by side, we can learn to understand what immigrants go through as they seek for a better life, Immigrants sacrifice everything, migrating will never be simple because of the sacrifices that it requires, Immigrants often face racism/discrimination, lack of support, and financial needs. Which can never be taken lightly because of the amount of courage that it takes to start a life in another country, especially knowing that there will be a lot of challenges along the way.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Hi Yovanna,

      I appreciate your honesty here. Like Ashley, you mention low expectations for the film, ones that were upset.

      You’re rightly pointing to the balance that Chaplin strikes between comedy and tragedy– a balance that perhaps seesaws back and forth as much as the camera in the dining room scene. What are some particular scenes that evoke sadness or humor, for you? How did you arrive at your wise understanding of the poem (were there particular lines that struck you)?

      • Yovanna

        A particular scenes that evoke sadness and humor is (as you mentioned) when Charlie is hungry so he enters the restaurant; Him and Edna meet again in there, as he tries to adopt a gent’s attitude, he uses silverware, but wrongly, by taking a knife instead of a fork (funny), then he orders food for the woman to make it look as if he can afford it, turns out he can’t even pay for his own (cute detail but very sad). When he realizes he can’t pay, he wants to get away from the waiter, I considered that scene hilarious yet terrifying, due to the circumstances (if I was in his shoes I would’ve be very anxious). Particular lines that strike me are lines 24-30 , the speaker talked about the trauma that lead migrants to leave their homes, letting us know that clearly migration isn’t a choice for the migrants who flee out of their homeland; it’s a necessity due to the circumstances “you have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land no one burns their palms under trains beneath carriages no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck feeding on newspaper”

  11. Daniel King

    The Immigrant:
    The plot from The Immigrant follows our main character played by Charlie Chaplin. I think that he is trying to convey that the experience of coming to NYC or the US as an immigrant leaves you fending for yourself (mostly for both food and money), however many others find themselves in this same situation and so in a way it can be both a lonely and shared experience. We can see the main character struggling to enjoy a meal twice in this short film due to his circumstances at ~3:00 and 16:00. However, both times his thoughts about the negative experiences are eventually washed over with infatuation of the stranger whom he met and helped on the boat. I might be reaching here but the film has something to say about the shared human experience or universal human truths; in that everyone needs shelter, everyone needs food, and everyone needs to love/to be loved. I believe this film is still relevant even over 100 years after its creation.

    The “speaker” of the poem sounds like a survivor recalling her past traumas. She is also speaking for others who leave home seeking a better life. I believe the intended audience is those who don’t understand that there are genuine reasons for people to leave where they come from seeking asylum and shelter. She is trying to rationalize immigrants’ decisions to leave home with lines 23 – 25
    “you have to understand,
    that no one puts their children in a boat
    unless the water is safer than the land”
    Once again the writer of the story is trying to convey that everyone no matter where they are from have universal human truths. Everyone needs shelter and security.

    Larger-Landscape Questions:
    We watch films to experience stories. We want to feel like we can relate to the characters to validate our feelings and past experiences. Stories can also teach us the lessons that the characters end up learning. We can live vicariously through the characters if we find ourselves relating to them. I think we study the humanities to think critically about the world around us and examine our history to better understand ourselves and the human experience. I enjoy going to watch movies at theaters, but I don’t love paying the ticket price. I think I’ll eventually go see them now that theaters are reopening.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Outstanding work here. I don’t think you’re reaching at all; you noticed the attention Chaplin devotes to basic human needs–food, shelter, even love– regardless of nationality, ethnic origin, class, etc. Chaplin himself was an immigrant– and ultimately somewhat of an exile, in Switzerland– but the story he tells here is not personal but universal, as you note.

      Especially astute observations regarding Shire’s intended readership, the “you” she invokes in the poem.

      You have a potential Project 1 topic here in your attention to the ways artists garner sympathy for their arguments.

  12. Max Rodriguez

    The film “The Immigrant” by Charlie Chaplin was a 1917 film starring Charlie Chaplin showcases the star in a boat ride along with multiple other characters that are immigrating to the United States. Chaplin’s character was made to be genuinely dissatisfied, angry and bored in this film. The immigrants portrayed in the film also look unkept and decaying. I believe this was to portray the same experience immigrating to the US and Chaplin’s film shows both a realistic experience but in his classic comedic style.

    The poem “Home” by Warsan Shire is a poem describing the emotions of migrating from your childhood to unknown territories. Shire describes reasons such as escaping the problems that are at home. Shire describes “Home as the mouth of the shark” to present the idea that they are already dying in their current household, it isn’t death coming soon but rather you are already dead in the mouth of the shark. The most important part of leaving one’s country is to leave those problems and fend for yourself in entirely new territory. 

    These two different forms of the same topic shine light to the migration experience in similar and different perspectives. Charlie Chaplin was a more comedic take to describe the true hardships while also poking fun at the process. Home brings a more intimate and real experience that is different from Chaplin mainly due to Home being a poem. We can visually see Chaplin’s struggle and life but Home was entirely on our imaginations and everybody will have different ideas of what our character would be dealing with.

    • Tamara Ivana

      Max, I love the words “decaying and unkept” as I feel it’s how immigrants are often viewed or referred to. I also agree that the “home as the mouth of the shark” line was powerful because as a visual, who wouldn’t run away? Also thanks for pointing out the two completely different forms and tones of both pieces. I don’t know why I didn’t think to analyze how polar they were to each other while indulging in them. Awesome job.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Hi Max,
      Interesting ideas here. Do you feel that Chaplin’s portrayal of the immigrants on the ship comes across as anti-immigrant? Which scenes stand out for you in this way? You’re right that he’s using humor to treat hardship. What would you say is the effect of this on the viewer?

      Good point about Shire’s poem and the dire metaphors of home.

    • kezia king

      Max I just wanna say really well written. I love how you went into detail about how the directors work has a stronger meaning that doesn’t just resonate with oneself but ourselves as a whole . The argument you made about “ decaying and unkept” was super strong and ties in so much of when people think of immigrants the world views them. I also noticed how you said home being a poem it brought a new aspect I was wondering do you feel poems resonate with a reader more than films?

  13. Oliver Hadi

    1, Summary of Chaplin’s ‘The Immigrant’
    The movie consists of 2 main parts; the first part is a description of the journey of immigrants taking a boat two the US through the experiences of Chaplin (up to 10:48), the second part showcases Chaplin adapting to the new circumstances in a scene playing out in a restaurant. Both of these main components are linked through a romantic string leading up to the ending scene in front of the ‘marriage license’ office in the rain (from 22:45-23:45). In the first segment playing out on a boat, Chaplin captures the struggle of the immigrant crossing the Atlantic. Through a lot of exaggeration, Chaplin is able to show the boring the nauseating boat ride through a comical lens. The viewer also gets an insight to the financial and moral whereabouts of the characters on board, while also creating a clear emphasis on how immigrants tend to represent a wide range type of people. However, at the end of the boat ride, they are all treated like a herd of sheep regardless of their differences. (from 9:50). The restaurant scene follows the same exaggerated approach, in this case besides the financial struggles, Chaplin emphasizes how immigrant customs and traditions might be different from that of the normal that locals are used to and causes them to frown upon. The mentioned romantic string involves an immigrant woman who takes the same boat with Chaplin while he also ends up sitting in the same restaurant. To have another main character to show up besides Chaplin gives the viewer a sense of familiarity and makes the whole movie more cohesive. Nevertheless, the romantic string through the two components is the perfect setup for the closing scene in the rain.

    2, Shire’s piece – “Home” Who is the “speaker” of the poem…
    The poem represents a one-directional conversation between an immigrant and a conservative. The immigrant tries to explain the main causes and struggles of immigration that may not seem obvious from the lens of a conservative person who only knows the end of the story, but not the beginning. The immigrant wants to change the perception of other immigrants, “you have to understand”(line23) clearly shows that intent. While quoting the general perception that immigrants and refugees are facing from line48-63. The speaker creates the harsh images of struggle through home and family that is familiar to the listener in hopes of empathy.

    3, Why do we watch films? Why do we study the humanities?…
    The simple answer would be that we watch movies for entertainment. But why does it entertain us? Movies evoke the emotions of their audience through both the visual and acoustical performances that may be familiar to the viewer through life. We study humanities for the same reason we study sciences, and that is to better understand the implications of films and literature on people and to use findings to improve our communication through visual arts and writing.

    • Daniel King

      I like that you also noticed the significance of Chaplin’s character and his romantic relationship with the woman character.

      Also I wrote something similar answering the third question in how we examine our past experiences to learn from them. I’m curious, are you eager to go back to theaters to enjoy films in their natural setting?

    • Farai Matangira

      Interesting that you bring up the exaggeration and the use of a comical lens in the boat ride. I feel that he had to do this exaggeration of emotion and movement throughout the film because there is no audio. Without the comical nature of his performance, it would have been a boring performance that would not have resonated as much with the audience.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Hi Oliver,
      Great observation here that the film is essentially divided into two settings, the ship and the restaurant, the perils of the Atlantic and the perils of not having money or familiarity with customs in New York City. And you’re exactly right– the “through” line here is the potential love story of Chaplin’s character and his lady friend, though some viewers today (and one of our classmates here) find the pressure for marriage at the end somewhat offputting. I would agree that Chaplin includes a range of characters on the boat and does not gloss over the fact that some are dishonest or frightening.

      Very insightful understanding of the poem as a conversation (part of the poem’s subtitle) between an immigrant and a conservative. Who is this conservative figure at the Deportation Centre? Potential Project 1 topic there.

  14. Nathiw Sanchez

    the short film named “The Immigrant” by Charlie Chaplin have shown in different scenarios and occasion the different stages that many immigrants went through for better opportunities. The film has reflected in different examples the immigration during the 1900s which can be still related and seem in today’s immigration. The director of the film has shown the social environment and the different mental states that immigrant was going during those years, as well using as a message the different impacts that the immigration was having during those years. As a result, the short film named “The Immigrant” by Charlie Chaplin has stated different messages about immigration and the social environments that they were living during those years.

    In the poem “Home” by the writer Warsan Shire, the author has stated in different scenarios the lifestyle that they were living during those years. In the poem, the author states the miserable battle that those people were living every day in an insecure neighborhood without any protection. Since the protection was limited in that place it is evident that was a death or life neighborhood where no one was secure and where the only weapon that they have was their house completely closed.

    After watching the short film named “The Immigrant” by Charlie Chaplin, and the read the poem “Home” by the writer Warsan Shire, I have learned from both the life that many immigrants have lived. As well both works have shown the lifestyle that many people have lived and the reasons why many people have decided to immigrate to another place trying to create and rebuild a new life with more opportunities.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Hi Nathiw,
      Good points here about the evolving psychology of an immigrant, day to day and moment to moment, depending on conditions faced. What struggles do you think the film portrays that immigrants today still encounter?

  15. Tamara Ivana

    Charlie Chaplin’s “The Immigrant” walks you through the experience of not only him, but the masses of those who migrate. Throughout the film Chaplin uses his comical and charismatic way to show the struggles of hunger, hustle and all the difficult decisions that comes with making such a life defining transition. I think the need to hustle and quickness of losing and gaining money was demonstrated during his card scene where he won all the money on the table. (6:50) Shortly after he wins it all, he’s dealt with a difficult decision of giving it back to the woman he was earlier enamored by. I think this shows a lot of selflessness and equally one example of the many hard decisions that I think such journey challenges you with. The restaurant scene stood out to me the most because it’s something that is still so familiar to me today. The discrimination that is displayed in public settings, often reading if someone “belongs” solely based and defined by one’s looks and attire. I think it’s something we’ve all experienced in some level. Lastly, I think it’s nice that in such a crude, cruel and cold journey, Chaplin found love. Showing that maybe some sacrifices are worth it and can result in a better outcome, making the jump worth it.
    In Shire’s “Home” it’s painted that nobody runs away from their home unless they’re being pushed out. I don’t think a lot of people speak to what little options and the desperation somebody must have to put not only their lives at risk, but those of their children as well. Nothing is ever guaranteed in trying to run away from home, but it’s better than looking back or waiting to be next. Coming to the United States is always referred to as “a better life” with “better opportunities” and I think it speaks loudly to the suppression that is almost considered culture in a lot of countries. When I read “how do the words the dirty looks roll off your backs maybe because the blow is softer than a limb torn off” It reminds me of what my own country Colombia is going through right now. Just making over a month of violence, killings and kidnappings by police, this poem hit me in the gut. “Anywhere is safer than here” are words I’ve heard from my own family and sometimes I lose sight of the privilege I have to not just be angry, but to be able to display such anger towards all suppression and abuse. Something that the homeland that raised hardly ever allows you to exercise – so you run.
    Enough time has passed for me to respectfully and safely attend movie theaters again and I can’t wait to do so. I think we watch films to momentarily live a different life. We study the humanities in both film and writing to grasp at a moment of feeling or a challenge that maybe we haven’t experienced before. I like everything that comes from analyzing films and humanities too, the way you challenge your own character through question. In The Immigrant, would you have kept the money? In Home, would you risk your life for a better one or would you settle for the sake of not experiencing risk?

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Brilliant work here, including your questions at the end, which I hope some of your classmates will answer.

      When we travel between countries we often have to go through “Customs” and border protection, and it’s interesting to think of that word, customs, in relation to Chaplin’s experience at the restaurant. You wisely note the way he is treated, based on his appearance and lack of awareness of local custom (how to eat the meal, how to wear or not wear his hat, how to hold the menu).

      You make powerful connections between the words of the poem and the words of your family members, as well as the first amendment and free speech (potential Project 1 focus). Under dictatorship, authoritarian government, and political corruption people lose both mobility and the right to speak freely, to critique authority. If one has not experienced this personally, one does not necessarily grasp the paralysis and fear–except through exposure to these important stories in art and literature, as you rightly note.

  16. Al Saffie

    The film takes you through the journey of weary immigrants travelling from a foreign land to New York City. It also demonstrates some of the challenges experienced by immigrants after they arrive in this big city. From my observation, Chaplin is attempting to hi-light the difficulties associated with the journey, with the swaying of the ship (0:44), the lack of proper nutrition by sharing of meals (2:54), and the illness endured by the aging traveler (7:35). He also shows the struggles of adjusting to life in New York with the restaurant scene (11:10). He shows that the cost of a meal is arguably cheap, yet it’s a cost his character is unable to procure. What I believe Chaplin is trying to convey is that the immigrant life and journey is a difficult one. As a New Yorker of an immigrant community, I see many parallels in this film in todays NYC. Many immigrants venture here through difficult channels, they all endure many challenges, and struggle to adjust to this big city.

    This poem takes your through the reason immigrants leave their home for a better place. Shire message in the poem is to bring to the reader an understanding into the choice made by an immigrant to leave the place they call home for somewhere else. He takes us on an emotionally rollercoaster by referencing some intense circumstances people leave. Like:
    “no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark”
    “you have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land”
    This poem is powerful, and I can relate as an immigrant. My family has endured, and faced similar choices mentioned in the poem.
    We can learn to appreciate the challenges endured by the immigrant population.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Hi Al,
      Excellent points here, and you’re acting as a model for us all in grounding your observations with specific time stamps in the film. You’re also pointing to something so important– the sense of exhaustion throughout both the film and the poem. The personal connection you describe here, being part of New York’s immigrant community, could potentially be a focus for your Project 1 paper.

  17. CindyNicole

    The immigrant

    This movie is about an immigrant’s journey to the United States; it shows all the trials and tribulations of coming to a new country. Charlie Chaplin uses satire and romance to make light of an otherwise traumatic experience. One of the moments from the movie that really captured my attention was when at 21:45 when he swindles a person for their money to be able to pay his tab because he arrived in the United states with no money. This movie is relatable and familiar to 2021 because we immigrants migrating here to the US everyday and they arrive in various way. The experience for some is very similar to Charlie’s in The Immigrant.

    The poem is about migration, and the traumas and complexities that define it. It explores the forces that drive people to leave their homes—forces that are often deeply misconstrued and misunderstood. It explores the pain that defines many migrant experiences. It conveys the struggle to leave everything behind in order to search for a better life. It depicts the unlivable conditions that the poet had to endure and emphasizes that their home is no longer safe. One of the lines that really got me was when she wrote “no one puts their children in a boat / unless the water is safer than the land,” She so vividly refers to the painful and dehumanizing effect of leaving your homeland and finding yourself in a foreign, unfriendly and unfamiliar place.

    I used to watch the Academy Awards; in my household it was a big thing along with the Golden Globes. We would make a night out of it by making appetizers if we were feeling up to it or ordering in Chinese and making 2 pitchers of sangria. We would print out the categories and it’s corresponding nominees and vote to our liking before the show aired. Once the winners were revealed, the losers had to take a shot or chug their glass of sangria. We thought it was like any other awards show that had satire and it’s sad moments until the “Oscars so white” came to light and we really started noticing how they alienated certain categories especially ethnic ones. They disregard Blacks, Asians, Hispanics and basically any other ethnicity/race that isn’t white. They only handed out awards to predominately White males and it was a pattern that’s been repeated year after year. We have not watched the Academy Awards since 2017 and will not watch until there are significant changes made.

  18. Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

    Very solid work here. You do a good job pointing to some of the ambiguities of the film, including Chaplin’s many interactions with money, the “coin of the realm”– the coin on the sidewalk, on the restaurant floor, the money always just out of reach, the manners and customs that are supposed to go along with it.

    I especially appreciate your language here about the motives of immigrants– that they are misconstrued. Can you say more?

    What a terrific routine surrounding the Academy Awards– your household knows how to do it up! I have found myself equally disillusioned by the Academy for its racism and exclusion and like you have not wanted to watch the event in several years.

  19. Wilmer U. Chavez

    Charles Chaplin “ The Immigrant”

    My response as a viewer after watching the short movie “ The Immigrant,” by Charles Chaplin is that is incredible that this short film was created in 1917 and all these Chaplin’s moods and scenarios that are presented, nowadays are still happening to immigrant people. Consequently, the emotions and reactions that I had while I was watching it were of nostalgic, and sadness because this short film reminds me when I emigrated from El Salvador to the United States and even though we had the lucky that we entered to the country legally, we felt worried because we did not know what the life or destiny was preparing us. Furthermore, I liked the film because how difficult can be emigrate to the United States and how difficult can be at the beginning. However, I did not like the last part when Chaplin wanted to get married the woman even though all the problems that they were going through.

    “Home” by Warsan Shire

    As a reader I respond to this poem that it is amazing because as the author wrote no body leave home unless must leave home. My reactions to this poem are fear and sadness because while I was reading this poem reminds me how beautiful is my native country El Salvador and how dangerous can be at the same time. Furthermore, reminds me how difficulty can be the life here in the United States for Immigrant people and no body wants to leave home but in most cases they must do it. Besides, the particular quote that was compelling to me was the quote that was in the lines number 24-28 “ No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land. No one burn their palms under trains beneath carriages.” This quote is compelling to me because while I was reading it reminded me people that emigrate in boats from Cuba to The United States and all the risk that they are taking. Furthermore, the quote “ No one burn their palms under trains beneath carriages,” this quote reminds me people that is trying to come from South, Central America or Mexico to the United States and trying to get on a train they lost a part of their body, or they lost their life.

    Large-Landscape Question

    We study humanities because we can create a better world because through this study we can get knowledge of art, music, movies. At the same time, we could be able to produce them. Furthermore, in my opinion we must study humanities because become wider our knowledge and topics of conversation with more people or the demonstration of skills. Open us the opportunity of get into more social groups. Furthermore, we watch films to get entertained, to learn life lessons, and to appreciate art.

  20. Marione

    Summarize the plot of the film in your own words. What do you think Chaplin is trying to convey about immigration, NYC, and the United States? (Support your answer with details from the film). Is the story familiar or foreign in 2021?

    Charlie Chaplin conveyed an important message on immigration to the United States in his short film “The immigrant”. At the beginning of the film, all of the immigrants were on a boat that looked very uncomfortable as it was moving side to side and hard to stand up. There was gambling and pick-pocketing that took place. At 9:21 he arrived to the land of liberty which is New York City. Many European immigrants came to NYC in the early 1900s. The immigrants were treated much like cattle; lined up and pushed around when receiving their papers. At 10:21 he was found walking around hungry and broke until he found a coin on the floor. The waiter at the restaurant was very aggressive towards him because he is an immigrant. Chaplin received culture shock as he had to eat differently and remove his hat, much like real immigrants arriving to a new country.

    1. As a reader, how did you respond to the poem? What were some of your emotions and reactions while reading? Choose a particular quote that you found compelling. Copy and paste it, then explain why it moved you. Cite the line numbers (ex: lines 14-16)  and include a /   in between each line break.
    As I was reading this poem it became easier to understand why people immigrate to the United States. It says it is easier to be called racial slurs and live in refugee camps than what they were facing in their home country. The lines 59-66 “how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
    or the words are more tender than fourteen men between your legs” People born in America don’t always take into consideration how lucky they are that their children get to grow up innocently in comparison to someone who is growing up elsewhere.

    What can we learn from studying these works side by side?

    Studying these works side by side teaches you different perspectives of immigrants. It teaches you the joint levels of disrespect they faced when entering this country then and currently.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Thanks for these observations. Do you think all immigrants today face this treatment? And is the divide in the US really about immigration, or something else? There is a possible Project 1 paper there…

      * my phone autocorrect initially changed your name’s spelling- apologies

  21. Chris Del Castillo

    Summarize the plot of the film in your own words. What do you think Chaplin is trying to convey about immigration, NYC, and the United States? (Support your answer with details from the film). Is the story familiar or foreign in 2021?

    This film did a great job of showing many aspects of typical immigrants in a lighthearted manner even though it usually a not so pleasant story. Even the way the film begins with everyone being seasick. While we can laugh at how Mr. Chaplin was rocking back and forth, that trip really was very grueling and long. Even with the scene of the guy stealing from the young lady’s mother, it was used to give Mr. Chaplin that “heroic” moment. The reality was that everyone was coming over to start fresh and many with very little. If you were not taking care of the little bit that you had then it was easily taken because everyone was trying to survive. The part that really resonated with me was the scene in the restaurant. It was funny to watch Mr. Chaplin go back and forth with the waiter but many immigrants experienced similar situations which were not because of the change in culture. They all had to adapt to how things were done in a new land. Many did not have anyone here to teach them, so they had to learn on the fly. I saw many family members experience this culture shock and it was hard for them to adapt. I believe this story is very familiar to those of us who have more family away in other counties than family living here in the states. It’s hard to help family come to the U.S. and then when they finally get the opportunity, a whole new battle begins with learning the language and how things work here.

    As a reader, how did you respond to the poem? What were some of your emotions and reactions while reading?
    This poem causes a real paradox of emotions and thoughts for me. I was blessed to be born here in the U.S. but much of my family has not. My mother is from Honduras and it is the country with the greatest number of assassinations in the world. It is a very poor country. For many, joining a gang means living. I have family who have fled Honduras because they have no other option. With all this being said, I live very humbly here. Its just me and my mother and she has not been able to work for over 15 years now due to medical issues. While I want to strive for more and live better, I know where I could be and appreciate my circumstance. This causes this constant battle of emotions which either drive me to want more but then I also get the “be grateful” thoughts and emotions which cause me to get too complaisant with my current reality.
    I know this poem is speaking about leaving home as in their country but for me it makes me think of literally leaving my home. I can leave home and grind and fight to become the best version of myself. Option 2 is that I can stay home and take care of my mother and just take what I can and be happy with life. I know it sounds like I should be able to do both but after many years of trying I have come to see that both ideas con not coexist. The lines that really stuck out to me are lines 85-91. “no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear/saying/leave,/run away from me now/i dont know what i’ve become/but i know that anywhere/is safer than here”. I don’t feel unsafe at home as in my life is in physical danger but I do fear that staying home is like trying to fight my way out of a pool of quicksand. The more I struggle the deeper I get sucked in. I currently just accept that sometimes you must play the hand you were dealt in life and make the best of it.

    Why do we watch films? Why do we study the humanities? Will you be returning to movie theaters now that they are opening again?
    Humans are extremely complex. Reason being is that while there is a finite number of places we can come from, there are and infinite number of things that can influence us. The influences shape us and I believe this is why 2 people from the same home, like siblings, can grow side by side but turn out to be polar opposites of each other. I believe this is why we watch films and study humanities. It opens or eyes and minds to different lives and perspectives which we might have never been exposed to otherwise. The more we can learn of all the people that surround us then the more we can understand each other. The more we understand each other then the more we can coexist. That was an extremely simplified answer. Also I have never really been the type to enjoy the movie theaters. I will go every now and then but I would much rather enjoy a film in the comfort of either my home or of a friend/family. While that is true, I have already been to the theater twice since opening.

  22. Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

    Good work here, Chris. This could absolutely be the makings of Project 1 (with the addition of quotes and specific passages) if you’re interested.

  23. Jeffrey Shor

    I feel that in the film, there are many aspects that can still be related to modern times. When somebody is coming to the United States from another country, it is often due to living in a country with a lower quality of life or opportunities and they are looking for a change, for an opportunity. Immigrants go through so many struggles and make many sacrifices to get to where they are going. It is hard to start over again in a foreign land. They are often hard-working and giving people. This can be seen when Chaplin gives some of his money to the woman’s mother. You can definitely see the emotions of each character and what they were feeling. The film was funny and sad all together.

    The poem tells the story of immigrants who leave their homes in search of a better life. A better life includes not living in a place that is no longer safe. Pain is identified all through the poem that is about the struggles of leaving the life you know behind. The line “No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land” shows some of the pain of living somewhere that is not safe. Some people must make the choice of leaving the land they call home to endure the struggle of being in a foreign place and starting fresh.

    We watch films to visually see and understand the storyline of certain characters and situations. Films help to portray and get a point across to the viewer. The adaptation of works of literature into a film can go many different ways and showcase all sorts of creativity, depending on the director and budget. Humanities are studied to get a better understanding of culture. This can be used to further films in so many ways as well. I personally will not find myself at a movie theater for a while. Not because of the virus or pandemic, but simply because I have lived without going to a movie theater for a few years now, simply because of lack of time or interest. The prices of movie theater tickets and amenities these days are also insane. While movie theaters had been closed, many new movies had been made accessible through platforms such as HBO Max and such, and are available to those who are already subscribers for no extra charge.

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