In Modern Times, one of the frequently recurring motifs that I found to be most symbolic to the film is food. In every scene, food is present and seems to play an important role in the storyline. From the beginning of the film we see the machine that feeds workers, and the girl stealing the bread and bananas, and the roast duck that never gets eaten. All of these themes with food play a role in showing the hardships of the Great Depression. During the Great Depression, a lot of people couldn’t afford to buy food, so some resorted to stealing like the girl stealing the bread, bananas, and cake from the department store. These scenes remind the audience of the difficult times of the Great Depression while combining it with humorous scenarios despite the seriousness of the situation.
As a comedy, we expect the film to be all laughs and humor, with nothing very serious or bad happening. However, the death of the orphan girl’s father was a very dramatic turning point in the movie. This scene reverses the viewers expectations, because we never saw foreshadowing of anything as serious as death occurring in a comedy film. The death of the father was an example of how desperate the situation was in the Great Depression. Everyone was in a state of unrest, with workers going on strike and people protesting. Even though this film was a comedy, it showed a dark side of society at that time.
The police played a significant role in the film as a recurring motif. There always seemed to be a police man in the scene, making sure there was no trouble and always seem to be catching the Tramp doing something that wasn’t entirely his fault. However, the Tramp didn’t mind being in jail and even tries to purposefully do something so he will be arrested because he liked living in jail so much. This is another sign of the conditions people faced in the Great Depression. Many people were homeless and the Tramp would even go to jail because he felt it was a place that he could call home. In the end, he tries to find a home but is unsuccessful.