“Modern Times” was a wonderful blend of comedy and social drama. The movie provided a look into the world of the great depression by people who lived it. Different elements of the movie portrayed the different difficulties of life in that era. Between bursts of comedy a grand picture of a society in turmoil is produced. Through work shortages, factory closings, labor strikes and political unrest Chaplin’s world shows us another side that people like to forget about the past.
One of the many ideas that are prevalent in this movie is the idea that each person is just a part of a larger whole, that although you could try to be individual, it was not in your best interests to do so. This idea is shown both in the beginning of the movie and when Chaplin was “forced” through social pressure to strike. The entire factory sequences showed how the average American worker was just treated as replaceable labor in the 1920’s and 1930’s the only concern of the boss was the ability of the workers to keep up with quotas. The mechanical device that fed Chaplin shows just how far some people would go to get that little extra profit at the expense of the workers well being.
The American dream is also a prominent feature of the movie, Chaplin’s American Dream was a small shack with a puddle out back, saying that is is not how much you have that is what matters but what it means to you. The American dream has been prominent throughout American literature for hundreds of years and this movie is no exception. Through the use of comedy Chaplin portrays the American dream just as Algers does, something that is attainable with a little hard work. This idea was especially important at the time the movie was made.
The last major theme is about the difficulty of life during those years, food and jobs were hard to come by, and as Chaplin shows us jail was preferable to the hectic and dangerous city streets. At the time of the great depression Americans had to fight for what little they had, and as the movie showed many people went hungry. However this movie glorifies the struggle of the poor rather than vilifying them for stealing food to survive. By glorifying the struggle the movie takes on yet another social issue: when the poor steal to eat it is not criminal, just survival.