This Is Your Brain on Crime
The movie Miller’s Crossing and the novel Legs by William Kennedy have two characters that have a special quality, which adds dramatically to their characterization. The main character of Miller’s Crossing, Tom Reagan, and the main character from Legs; Jack Diamond shares many similar traits and symbolic equivalence. In particular they had an item that they wore or carried, and this item had the ability to show what is going on inside the character’s mind. Not only did the items have the ability to tell what was on their mind; it also has the ability to foreshadow. At times in the novel where their mind/conscience was tested, the use of their items determined the outcome. The body can not live without the mind, so it is important for the characters to remain close to these items that symbolize their mind or they will surly die.
Tom Reagan had a dream in which his hat fell off his head and the wind blew it away. He did not run after the hat in the dream. However in reality he kept the hat close to him at all costs. The dream is the opening to the movie and is explained during a conversation with Verna. During the movie he is seen with the hat and without. The trend his hat wearing follows with when engaging in sex it is off, and actually gets its own scene of being thrown on to a chair or something of that nature. For the most part, it is also seen without his hat when something bad is happening to him. According to Cirlot, “The hat, since it covers the head, generally takes on the significance of what goes on inside of it” (Cirlot 140). When the hat is off, he becomes mindless and driven by evil. From this the viewer can derive that Tom Reagan has a moral conscience which it brought out by the hat, but besides that he has no heart. To change one’s hat is equivalent to changing one’s mind. At the climatic point of the movie where Bernie begs for his life and asks Tom Reagan to “have a heart”, he retorts by saying, “what heart” and put a bullet in his head. The hat is missing from this scene, and is crucial to foreshadowing the events to come. Before at Miller’s Crossing when he had his hat on, he spared Bernie’s life, but with the change of the hat, he has transformed into the immoral Tom Reagan and shot Bernie with ease. At the end of the movie he is seen putting his hat back on. This is foreshadowing his return to wholeness, and it is further proven with his denying working with Leo again in business.
Jack Diamond is the Gatsby of the gangster era. For the most part the reader sees Diamond as the man who has it all. However there is a mysterious quirk about this man of killing, stealing, and adultery. He carries a Rosary. Jack Diamond has been shot at and engaged in knife fights plenty of times in his life, however he always came out alive. It can be speculated that he carried this Rosary through all of these ordeals. Marcus, the narrator stated, “I saw Jack on deck alone after that, with a rosary, the first time I knew he carried one. He was not praying- only staring at it, strung like webbing through his fingers, as if it were a strange, incomprehensible object” (Kennedy 91). This Rosary is the source of his thinking, and without it he is lost. Not only is it the source of thinking it also serves as his judgement standard. Jack Diamond was a man that had plenty reason to question his actions and the Rosary was a way to find truth when he wanted to find it. The pervious quote came immediately after Jack Diamond dumped the hot jewels into the ocean. However, the general trend with Jack Diamond was that he is an immoral man. Lack of resorting to the Rosary reflected lack of thinking, which is sure to lead to complicated matters. “When Jack’s lucky blue suit came back from the hotel cleaners, a silver rosary came with it in the key pocket. . . New prayer implement there? He nodded and dropped it back into his pocket” (242). Putting the Rosary away metaphorically represents him throwing away all that is good and just inside of him and putting his thought process away. Jack Diamond’s inability to utilize the Rosary as a tool of direction lead to his death. If it had consulted the Rosary to find truth and purity, Jack Diamond would have lived many more years in happiness. Tom Reagan differs from Jack Diamond in this respect, for he found the path of wholeness and pursued in hopes of escaping the dark side. Jack Diamond thrived on immoral action, and continued to do so with little examination of conscience.
All to often in life we see people with mis-calibrated scales of moral thinking. Tom Reagan and Jack Diamond were such people, and with their symbolic brains they tell a story that is all to often heard. A person that does on rely on ethics, morals, and good will perish not by the hands of other, but by there own. Tom Reagan finally used his mind at the end of the movie by putting his hat on, and become a new man with a new credence. However, Jack Diamond failed and with that failure came the end of his life.