assignment 4-3: interpretive questions about “The Falling Man”

Due: Friday 11/4
Format: Leave a comment on this post
Length: Two or three questions

For this assignment, go back to your first observations, which you listed for Assignment 4-1. In class today (Nov. 2), we worked in groups to explain these observations as choices that Junod made for some reason. We asked some of the following questions to make “interpretive leaps” and come to conclusions:

  • Why did Junod do that?
  • How might that further his purpose?
  • Given what he seems concerned about in the world around him, and what he sees in his audience, why might he have chosen to do that?
  • What effects do you think this choice might have on readers?

For this assignment, develop three interpretive questions from your list of observations or from the classwork we’ve been doing.  These questions should be about some specific aspect of Junod’s text. Perhaps there is an observation that you cannot explain? Perhaps you cannot answer the question “so what?” for something on your list? Turn that into a question.

The goal of these interpretive questions is to push you and your classmates to identify choices and ask why Junod made those choices.  It is always possible that Junod did not consciously choose to do some of the things you observe in “The Falling Man,” but for now assume that he did and consider how this helps you understand his text.

14 thoughts on “assignment 4-3: interpretive questions about “The Falling Man”

  1. 1. Throughout the entire essay the families and friends who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attack were grieving. The main family that is interviewed is the Hernandez family because the photograph of the falling man is believed to be him. But, towards the end of the essay another family comes into play- the Briley family. They come into play just as the Hernandez family did because the photograph of the falling man was believed to be their son. There is a passage in the essay that states Jonathan Birley’s father was a preacher and him and his family prayed for hours asking God to let them know where their son was, the following day the FBI called and said they found Jonathans body intact, so Jonathan’s brother, Timothy, went to identify the body and it was his brother. The passage also goes on to say Timothy knew that the picture of the falling man was his brother all along because of the description they gave of the falling man (79-80). Timothy knew that his family was grieving terribly from their loss, so why didn’t he let his family know that the picture of the falling man was actually Jonathan so that his family would be more at ease to where their loved one was? Why would we keep it a secret?

    2. The final paragraph in Junod’s essay is how Briley might be the falling man, but we are uncertain. The essay states, “[a]t fifteen seconds after 9:41 a.m., on September 11, 2001, a photographer named Richard Drew took a picture of a falling man falling through the sky—falling through time as well as through space” (80). It goes on to say that the photograph was seen around the world and disappeared because we tried to forget that it happened. It then became known as the Unknown Solider in a war that has not ended. Why would the jumpers be called Unknown Soldiers?

    3. On page 73, the paragraph states, “[w]e don’t like to say they jumped. [t]hey didn’t jump. [n]obody jumped. [t]hey were force out, or blown out”. They went from saying they did jump but didn’t like saying they did, all the way to saying no one jumped at all they were blown out. Why would they say they didn’t jump when there are photographs taken showing they did? Are people in that much denial?

  2. 1. Throughout the entire essay Junod is focused on finding out the identity of they “falling man”. He is completely set on Hernandez as the man’s identity but then towards the end is not really sure. What is Junod’s purpose behind this. Is he trying to make a point about what is important to Americans?

    2. In Junod’s essay he says that “photographs lie” and goes on to say that “in the complete sequence of photographs, truth is subordinate to the facts that emerge slowly, pitilessly, frame by frame”. After reading this one thinks about all the photographs that they have looked at are supposedly all a lie. Why is this true? What is Junod trying to get us to understand?

    3. The essay also focuses on trying to clarify if the people on September 11 jumped, fell, or where forced out. Junod brings God into the picture saying that the people didn’t “jump at all, because no one can jump into the arms of God…you have to fall”. What significance does this play in the essay? What was the reasoning behind Junod bringing God into the essay?

  3. Throughout the article Junod mentions religion and more specifically, God. The Hernandez family refuses to believe that Humberto jumped because he would do anything to see his family again and wouldn’t even consider suicide. The woman from Connecticut who lost her two sons however, accepted that they jumped after a complete loss of hope. On the last page Junod both acknowledges and dismisses these views but then says “Maybe he didn’t jump at all, because no one can jump into the arms of God. Oh, no. You have to fall.” Is he trying to say that whatever made them jump was the right choice? Because no matter what they would ultimately have salvation?

    Junod says “that we have known who the Falling Man is all along” is he saying that the Falling Man is not a person but merely a frame of a human being captured in time?

  4. After the horrific events of the Holocaust, several pictures were released of the people that were being victimized and how many people died. Thousands of people were shown from it all over the world. It seems that Germans do not feel they need to censor that, but when the event of 9/11 happens, pictures appeared of the people from the tragedy for a day, and then disappear. Does it seem that Americans are not comfortable expressing emotions, or do we just have too much pride to show what actually happened to the people on the day of 9/11?
    Through the text, the author is trying to figure out who “The Falling Man” is, and has the Hernandez family particularly in mind. But at the end he brings a new family into the picture, and almost contradicts himself. But what really confused me was the ending statement where Junod says that we knew who “The Falling Man” was all along. Does Junod really know or is he trying to say something about what happened to humanity as a whole that day?

  5. 1. When Junod compare 9/11 and post-Holocaust, why was the reaction so different between times? He says how it was okay on how all the photos of the death camps were released immediately yet when people were shown pictures of 9/11 after the tragedy, Americans felt betrayed. Is he trying to show that Americans care more about each other and feel more sympathy for Americans compared to other people in other countries?
    2. In his essay, she says how people would rather not find out about how their loved ones die. The tried to alter reality by making things seem like they didn’t really happen. But if you really loved them wouldn’t you want to know exactly how they died and by what caused there death instead of living a lie? Sometimes living a lie is worse and more hurtful then actually knowing the truth. So was Junod just saying it still might be too soon for families and friends to accept the fact of their loss or most people don’t want to think about the horrors of their death or they just don’t want to know?
    3. Throughout the essay Junod tries his best to identify the man in the picture. He goes into details about his looks and what he was wearing that day. He also talks about how he goes and talks with families trying to find out who this man is. He seems to believe that the man is Norberto Hernandez, and finds more information on him but then other people call him thinking it is their loved one. So why talk so much about the Hernandez’s of they might not even be the man’s family and it was one of the other callers? Why didn’t he focus on those families instead? Especially the Briley family since so much more information about his looks and clothes matched their description.

  6. 1) Why does Junod write his article in the order that he does? Is he trying to imply that the events of 9/11 not only had to do with the terrorists who committed the crime, but about those victims who weren’t rescued and jumped and were ridiculed against for trying to save their lives the best way possible?

    2) Junod contradicts himself when he brings about God into his story stating that the victims didn’t “jump at all, because no one can jump into the arms of God…you have to fall”. Why does Junod bring about God and suicide in the same sentence? Doesn’t the Bible go against committing suicide but yet and still Junod thinks that this is how the victims reached “higher power”?

  7. 1. In Paragraph five, when Junod begins to give the portrait of what actually occurred on that horrific day, he almost seems to narrate the people who had to jump and describes there deathly predicament. What I have a hard time understand is why after describing the people in the towers last moments as, “They kept jumping until the tower fell. They jumped through windows already broken and then, later, through windows they broke themselves. They jumped to escape the smoke and the fire; they jumped when the ceilings fell and the floors collapsed; they jumped just to breathe once more before they died.” That depiction of their seemed nothing they brought on themselves. What I mean by this is how is it then that he can begin to define their actions “mass suicide” or describe it so? He clearly just painted a picture where people were given an inevitable verdict of death.

    2. There are a couple lines placed with in the essay that seem to be symbolic. They appeared as anomaly’s and seem not to contrast, for they have to do with the topic at hand, but are just sentences, with no reinforcement, that almost seem as a hidden statement, or personal opinion of Junod that he takes away from the topic he was describing or story he was telling. Examples of these are, “He could not have died by jumping out a window.” “Besides, he had a sister. He never would have left her alone.” or “Oh, no you have to fall.” However the largest confusion that occurred through the reading was at the very last sentence when he said, “That we have known who the Falling Man is all along.” I can assure that I honestly have no clue what he is talking about. Perhaps the reader is supposed to gather what they have read from the reading as a whole and establish the character of those who fell on 9/11, but I do not know exactly.

    3. My third question is just the same as everybody’s, why is it that he placed so much emphasis on the family’s perspectives? Honestly, he had a strong point as to how pictures were viewed and seen in the past, and could have created a strong argument there, but instead he talks about the different families, primarily the Hernandez’s, throughout the majority of the reading. Obviously it brought pain; nobody wants to remind of their dead son. I think he had a stronger case with issue of censorship in the media and what not, rather than trying to evoke an answer or a general perspective on 9/11 on a personal level.

  8. 1. Junod is trying to find the truth about the people that jumped, why they jumped, an dhow their families react. He writes an entire essay on this one man that he is sure is Hernandez until the last page. Why does he fixate on this one guy and not try to find the identities of the other jumpers?
    2. On pages 74-75 and page 78 Junod focuses on the families and their responses when they are told their loved ones jumped, why does Junod think that the families responses were so important, and why did he not go about telling or talking to them more carefully? Did he want his essay to have the reaction it had?
    3. A more obvious question is when Junod talks about how after Hurricane Katrina the pictures were shown right away, but after the towers being hit there were not photos, why does he think that it is normal to have pictures like this to the public? I believe that people have the right to see what they want to see, however why does he make a big deal about people not being able to see people committing suicide?

  9. Why did Junod chose to write this article 2 years after the 9/11 incident? Although people reading this article still remember the incident I feel like it is kind of irrelevant. So if he would have wrote it not long after the 9/11 incident would it have had more impact or would it have stirred up more controversy and made more people upset over him writing this article even more so than having written it 2 years after the fact?

    Even though Junod’s article on the Falling Man went into depth about the man who fell from the building and even identifying the man, do you think that it was inappropriate for him to bring the family into the story or was it disrespectful of him to do this?

  10. 1. In “The Falling Man” essay, written by Tom Junod, he explains how controversial displaying photographic evidence of the jumpers was post 9/11. In his essay he explains how Associated Press thought of the photographs. The pictures were “something iconic in the extended annihilation of a falling man.”(70) Because of this the picture featured in the New York Times the very next morning. In contrast, the citizens of New York thought differently of photographs of people jumping out of the World Trade Center. Junod writes, “No one ever got used to it; no one who saw it wished to see it again.” (71) Because of this, the photograph that Richard Drew took of the falling man “ran once and never again.” (72) and many newspapers faced charges for invading this man’s privacy and “stripping him of his dignity.” (72) How is it that media and Americans have very contrasting view of this photograph? Media contains stories of death and crime more than any other topic. What does this say about Americans and how does the photographic evidence, pictures of the jumpers, relate to how media is presented in America today? Is there ever a limit as to what media should censor?

    2. Tom Junod writes about the falling man and the investigation to find his identity. In his essay, he explains how reporters harassed the Hernandez family to find out if the man pictured was the father in their family. When a reporter showed up to Norberto Hernandez’s funeral, Jacqueline (the daughter of Norberto) was outraged and the reporter was “forcibly evicted—before he did any more damage”(76). Do you think that Jacqueline’s actions are justified? The Hernandez family states that “he could not have died by jumping out a window.” (76) Why would this family resist the idea of him jumping out of a window? What does this say about other families that lost loved ones in the tragic events of 9/11?

  11. 1. Junod tries to explain about the man falling out of the window and how it was an attempt at suicide. The only evidence we have is a picture. We don’t have actual facts that can lean towards any possible conclusion to why he chose to act this way or if it was something else that pushed him to do so. How can Junod assume how he jumped when theres no evidence of how or why?

    2. When Junod describes the man falling out of the window he brought a topic up that made no sense to the picture at all. Religion. When Junod brought religion into the mix it was obvious that he is no more then a fake, wanna be religious man trying to appeal to all crowds. From one picture of a man falling out of the window, How, can you put religion as the cause for why this man fell out a window?

  12. 1. In his essay, Junod speaks about how photos of post-Holocaust victims were released immediately following the German tragedy and everyone was perfectly fine with viewing these photos. However, Americans became offended when the photo of “The Falling Man” was released. Is Junod trying bring out the fact that Americans are more comfortable viewing tragedy as long as it isn’t American?
    2. At the end of the article, Junod says, “Maybe he didn’t jump at all, because no one can jump into the arms of God. Oh, no. You have to fall.” Throughout the entire article, Junod doesn’t make any reference to God, but he squeezes it in at the end of his article. How does this(referencing God) affect his audience?

  13. In Junods’ essay, he talks about the Tumbling Woman exhibition at Rockefeller Center. He talks about how the exhibition was only open for a single week before closing, because the curator was receiving bomb threats. Although many lost loved ones on the day of, why would anyone decide to send a bomb threat as a way to shut down a September 11th themed exhibition?

    “We don’t like to say they jumped. They didn’t jump. Nobody jumped. They were forced out or blown out.” I understand that the New York Medical Examiners office might not want to say someone jumped out of the twin towers on September 11th, and these people may have been forced out of the buildings, but what is the reality of the situation? These people jumped, no matter if they were forced out of the building, they were forced to jump. I wonder the estimated total of the people that were forced to jump, and I wonder why some people can’t admit to the reality of the situation.

  14. 1. In the essay the falling man Junod tries to figure out who the man that is falling is. All the evidence he has is the clothing and shoes the man is wearing and his skin tone. How does Juond think he can just start assuming it is certain men when there were thousands of people in the towers when they were hit?
    2. Through out the essay Junod works very hard to find out details about the one particular jumper. Why do you think he cares so much about this specific picture and not about any other pictures that were taken?

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