Nighthawks by Edward Hopper Essay

490 Words2 Pages
At first glance, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks instantaneously permitted me to feel a sense of exclusion and restriction. The title combined with the general contrast of colors in the painting immediately placed me on the outside, in the dark. The scene Hopper shows us is a late-night city street-corner setting, where an all-night diner is open and serving a few people. Judging the lack of detail in the people’s faces, I was given a restricted and limited role in the painting. It felt as if I were a stranger walking on the desolate sidewalks outside. With more concentration and focus when looking at the painting, what stood out to me were the different intensities and luminosities of light that was used in creating the scene. The harsh fluorescent light being from inside the diner emits a harsh radiance that spills out into the darkness outside onto and across the street, and even inside the shop opposite of the diner. This overpowering light bursting out of the window forms a feeling of continuous activity or stimuli within the diner which is deemed off-limits to me. Through the window, which is the only way I can possibly “get in”, I am able to look at the interaction between the people, but at the same time, I am placed outside of the diner, as Hopper did not include a visible entrance to the eatery. This clear and obvious absence of a door forces me to stay outside and to merely imagine what the people are discussing. Author and poet Joyce Carol Oates uses her own imagination to make up her own idea of the scene inside and the interaction amongst the people: “She’s still contemplating the cigarette burning in her hand, the counterman is still stooped gaping at her…” Oates sees the simple contours the people’s bodies are in and yet was still able to characterize the people inside and give them certain traits and feelings. Hopper also uses geometric shapes and

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