I think one of the most mysterious relationships between words and images is one that we encounter everyday. The United States dollar bill has many words and images, but the relationship and symbolism of these features is something no one seems to be certain of. There are plenty of conspiracy theories thrown around about the images and their meanings, but it is doubtful that an average American citizen could explain to you the definite reasoning behind the words images on the dollar bill (I know I can’t).
The first thing I notice about the dollar is the color. It is usually a very pale green. The border on the dollar is made up of a very intricate design. There is a portrait in the middle of the dollar of George Washington, and most of the rest of the front is made up of words, letters, and numbers. Some of these words and numbers have a very clear purpose: 1 and ONE represent the value of the dollar, the name of the first President of the United States along with the name of the current Secretary of the Treasury, but there are other numbers that don’t serve as obvious a purpose.
The back of the dollar bill becomes infinitely more complicated. The border design is larger and more intricate, there is more than one language being used for the words, but there are less numbers. On the left is a pyramid image and on the right a crest image of a bald eagle. The phrase “IN GOD WE TRUST” is scribed in the center over the large and detailed word “ONE”. The images on the dollar bill are most likely so detailed to prevent fraudulent reprinting and reproduction. The symbolism behind the images, however, is not greatly explained. Without studying the dollar in depth, the average person does not know why the images that are featured on the dollar were chosen.
The dollar bill is not narrative image as far as I can determine, so it is hard to relate the image and its words to McCloud’s show and tell piece. As far as the development of creative images goes, the images on the back of the dollar bill are definitely abstract. The pyramid which is split at the top and decorated with an eye is an example of abstract imagery that McCloud described. I wouldn’t say its impressionism that is exhibited on the dollar bill, but it is not a normal sort of image that one would find in real life rather than art. In some ways the dollar bill is a montage, in that words like “ONE” are incorporated into the image rather than as a caption. But also, the images and words are interdependent in that you wouldn’t know what sort of currency this was by looking at only the images on the dollar and not the words or numbers.
The dollar is interesting in imagery and language and I can only suspect that it is meant to be as mysterious as it is.
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