Chinatown Jake Gittes Character Analysis

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Imagine a proud horse, tied to a small plastic chair, unmoving because it believes escaping is hopeless. This is a psychological condition called learned helplessness, and in Robert Towne’s Chinatown (1974), we see the detective hero Jake Gittes’ descent into this condition. Gittes is defined by his chase after justice, willing to question and arrest enemies, lovers, and even his employers. Polanski and Towne use the dark world of Chinatown, a very loose “first person” view, and Joe Gittes as a relatable tragic hero in order to lead us to the same conclusion Gittes does: The world and future is out of your control, and by trying to you might make it worse. Better to do as little as possible. Towne immediately gives us a glimpse into Gittes’ character in the first two scenes: a kind, successful, and disillusioned detective. He is first consoling a client, and while he seems a little annoyed by his client’s reactions, he gives him a drink, and assures him to not worry too much about the bill, to pay when he can. Gittes is portrayed as well dressed and successful, but down to earth enough that he still appeals to the everyday man. We see his skills and dedication…show more content…
He starts out somewhat disillusioned with the people around him and the justice system, but still idealistic and committed to solving the case. The genre’s first person view, combined with Gittes’ personality, allows the audience to identify with Gittes and arrive at the same conclusion he has with the world of Chinatown. Gittes was haunted by his past, but his code and idealism forced him to try once more, causing the deaths of the Mulrays, and “kidnapping” of Katherine. Chinatown gives us a lovable, flawed, and haunted detective, watch him give it all, and the it forces us to watch as the world breaks him down, teaching us that at any moment, everything we work for and hold onto could be lost, regardless of how hard we
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