Tragedy Writing - Donnie Darko as an illustation of the tragic mode.

Essay by tpillonHigh School, 12th gradeA+, June 2005

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Donnie Darko, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone and Patrick Swayze is an edgy,complex, psychological thriller about a suburban American teen dealing with the pressures of modern life and psychosis inducing anti-depressants. As well as being a masterpiece of modern cinema, Donnie Darko is also an excellent example of modern tragedy, as defined by Northrop Frye's Modal theory.

Firstly, the movie takes place in the month of October, a subtle (though not necessarily intentional) link to the Modal theory in which Tragedy is connected to autumn. Secondly, Donnie Darko fits perfectly into the modern "tragic hero" description, he is a regular, upper-middle class teenager who is intelligent and relatively personable, if somewhat antisocial. His only weakness (or "tragic flaw" if you will...) is his dependence on anti-depressants, which make him moody and distant from his family. It is assumed that his medication is what causes him to see "Frank", his imaginary friend in a bunny costume that eventually leads him to his downfall.

The real main conflict in the film is that between Donnie and his psychosis (though there are many other antagonistic characters throughout the story), or between Donnie and fate (depending on one's interpretation). It is this conflict that Donnie cannot emerge from victorious, as proven by his alternate-reality death at the end of the film. It is also this conflict that makes the film tragic, Donnie cannot escape the fate prophesized by Frank, who tells him that his world will end in 28 days.

Donnie Darko certainly questions the nature of human existence, in its exploration of reality versus perception, time travel and destiny. The convoluted parallel universe structure can be interpreted as entirely invented by the chemically-scarred Donnie or as an actual tear in the space-time continuum that allows Donnie to actually change the past and alter...