Page 47 describes the scene of chaos that ensued in the Nashville headquarters where John Lewis was located while waiting to rejoin the freedom riders, when reports surfaced that his bus had been firebombed. The pictorial description illustrates the discord of the situation and the tense atmosphere through the inclusion of crowded, overlapping speech bubbles with varying levels of legible font. On page 46, prior to hearing this news on the radio, the illustrator paints an idyllic scene with students lounging on a hill and listening to music, but the “breaking news bulletin” projected from the radio shatters this tranquil scene. The speech bubble from the radio is jagged, and motion lines emanate from the radio, which is a physical manifestation of the shock the news had on its listeners. On page 47, some of the radio’s speech bubbles are obscured by other panels, illustrating how the activists in Nashville were only receiving fragments of information, contributing to the mounting sense of anxiety and panic.
Additionally, speech bubbles from individuals in the room making phone calls in hopes of gleaning more information about the situation crowd each panel, overwhelming the reader. This stylistic choice elicits the frenzy of activity in the room. The illustrator also does a great job of drawing emotive facial expressions, and I found that the second picture down on the far right in particular captures the fear John Lewis must have felt for his friends and colleagues in this moment. The speech bubble of the woman shouting “hey!” in the background also implies that the men are so captivated by the radio broadcast that they are oblivious to their surroundings.
I believe that this graphic interpretation of the situation was more effective at capturing the chaos of the moment than traditional text. If I were reading the text on a page, even if the author had denoted that the speakers were interrupting each other with dashes, or emphasized the urgency by using capital letters, the text would be linear and neat, which contrasts the disarray the author is trying to convey. With a graphic novel, the illustrator could physically overlap text bubbles and write dialogue with more freedom which makes the scene feel more authentic and three-dimensional, like watching a movie. I found the illustrated version particularly moving because the vivid imagery forced me to picture myself in a position where people I care about are in danger and I have no information about their condition.