Interaction Between The Flâneur And Work

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The interaction between the flâneur and worker suggest an underlying class conflict present in contemporary Paris. The setting of the painting, notable as an engineering marvel, is also historically important because it is where “different social classes [come] into daily contact,” despite its past as the “scene of heavy fighting during the Commune” (Fried 21). While the bloody history of Paris is still fresh, the calmness of the bridge suggests that class relations are evolving and perhaps improving. Fried references critic Julia Sagraves’s observation that “the painting presents a ‘roomy, airy expanse of sidewalk that allows pedestrians ample passing distance, permitting them to share its space comfortably with dissimilar social types, and …show more content…
The flâneur appears to look down at the worker in a critical, if not condescending manner. Moreover, the flâneur is leaning forward slightly, possibly indicating a slight aggressiveness. If Caillebotte meant to promise hope of class reconciliation as Sagraves suggests, the flâneur’s gaze would be less of a glare. Fried offers an interesting alternative explanation of the flâneur’s downward gaze. He interprets the “flâneur’s look as directed not . . . at the absorbed worker but rather in the same slightly downward direction as that of the worker” (22). If the flâneur and workers are both looking downward at the same object, it would suggest an “unnegotiable difference between the two men and the social classes they exemplify” and a “converging aim or destination, one that remains at a distance from the present reality . . . but can only be imagined, wished for” (23). In other words, Fried implies that the flâneur and worker, representing their separate classes, both have the same (unrealistic?) goal but suffer from an “unnegotiable difference” between them. The space of the Haussmann boulevards does allow for “comfortable” encounters between members of separate classes, but perhaps these encounters have yet to evolve into interactions. That is, the flâneur and worker fail to interact and instead retreat into the comfortable space of the wide street. But they both gaze at the same goal, off in the distance. What is this elusive goal? Fried believes this goal to be class reconciliation, which seems reasonable, but their collective gaze could be directed towards the intrusion and dominance of modernity in Parisian life. Remember, the Pont de l’Europe overlooks the yards of the St.-Lazare train station, and both flâneur and workers direct their gaze downwards. Methodically and rhythmically, industrial beasts infiltrate the city. Flâneur and worker,

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