Modern Times definitely showed a good deal of repetition with the themes and events. One of the more explicit features was the music: you could always tell what was happening in the scene by the tempo of the music, which was very appropriately matched with the emotion and energy of the scene. While Chaplin was always accidentally getting himself into trouble, there was always some upbeat and lively music playing as the soundtrack to his shenanigans. Meanwhile, the orphan girl who was misbehaving just to put food on the table was accompanied typically by more depressing or slow music. It was rather cyclical as Chaplin kept going back to jail and the girl was always there waiting for him to get out (although the nature of the relationship was rather confusing to me).
Another repetitive theme in Modern Times is Chaplin being the “black sheep.” After being intrigued and slightly perplexed by the opening scene (the herd of sheep and one black sheep), I quickly started to make the symbolic connection. Chaplin was always dressed differently, slightly smaller, had different facial expressions and body language, etc. than the rest of the characters that surrounded him. He was always getting himself into all sorts of trouble to the point where you were SHOCKED that he didn’t roller-skate right off that construction site in the mall. Slowly, the viewers witness Chaplin getting small victories though, only to be let down again and again. This continues until the end when he finally achieves happiness and the simplicity that he and the somewhat mysterious girl have been trying to achieve the whole time.
These cyclical themes hold true to a rather implicit meaning. To me, the silence played a big part in this form. Chaplin goes through the whole film unable to fit in and unable to be successful, even with mundane tasks such as factory work and apprenticeship. But at the end, when he is finally successful, it is by singing of all things. You hear his voice finally and he is singing! And what do you know…he’s a great success and everybody loves him. He uses the creative outlet to find something he was good at and I think that shows that for some people, the run-of-the-mill jobs just aren’t going to work. Chaplin is simply the black sheep standing up for all the black sheep out there.