City Lights

City Lights Summary and Analysis of Part 3: Eviction


A title card reads: "The sober dawn awakens a different man." We see the Millionaire passed out on the couch with a pile of flowers on his chest. He awakens from his drunken slumber just as the Tramp arrives at his mansion in his car. When the butler goes to answer the door, the Millionaire tells him to tell any visitors that he is out.

James, the butler, turns the Tramp away with the slam of the door. The Millionaire goes to his rooms, unable to recall that he met the Tramp. When James tries to turn him away, the Tramp runs in for a moment, before being decisively dismissed. A number of wealthy men pass him on the street, and he jumps into the Millionaire's car and drives away.

Jumping out at a corner, the Tramp steals a man's cigar and returns to the Millionaire's house just as the Millionaire is coming out the front door. The Millionaire does not recognize him and gets in the car, driving away quickly and leaving the Tramp confused.

The Flower Girl eats a meal with her grandmother, and tells her about her encounter with the Tramp, whom she thinks is wealthy.

That afternoon, the Tramp is walking down the street when he encounters the Millionaire coming out of a bar. Now drunk, the Millionaire once again recognizes the Tramp and embraces him and kisses him on the cheek. He invites the Tramp to his mansion where he promises to throw him a "swell party."

The party. A large group of people dance wildly around the room. The Tramp sits on the couch drinking and eating. When he goes to spoon some of a nearby dish onto his plate, he realizes that it is actually the top of a bald man's head. Suddenly, a woman sits beside him and hands him a whistle, but he accidentally swallows the whistle, and every time he breathes, it makes a whistle sound.

A man goes to the piano to sing, but he is interrupted by the Tramp who, every time he breathes, makes a whistle sound. He covers his mouth and tries not to breathe, but he cannot stop whistling. Excusing himself, the Tramp goes outside and sits on a bench.

A taxi pulls up and calls to him, but the Tramp says nothing. When he whistles again, a flock of dogs run over and surround him, then follow him back into the party where the man is singing.

The morning after. We see the Tramp awakening in bed beside the Millionaire at the mansion and walking over to freshen up. When the Millionaire wakes up, he is sober and doesn't recognize the Tramp when he climbs back into bed with him. Anxiously, he buzzes for the butler and instructs him to kick the Tramp out.

As the butler pushes the Tramp out of the room, we see another butler putting a sticker onto the Millionaire's luggage that suggests he's going to Europe. "I'm sailing at noon, so hurry!" says the Millionaire. Downstairs all the guests from the party are waking up and one of them greets the Tramp. The Tramp sticks some fruit into his waistband just as the butler drags him out and pushes him onto the street. The Tramp pulls a banana out of his trousers and eats it as he walks away.

When he cannot find the Flower Girl at her normal post, he goes to her apartment and peeks in the window, where he sees a doctor's bag on the table, and a doctor examining the Flower Girl, who is in bed. "She has a fever and needs careful attention," the doctor tells the girl's grandmother. The Tramp sits down on the steps.

A title card reads: "Determined to help the girl, he found work." We see the Tramp pushing a cart in town; he is now a street sweeper. He walks past a man with an elephant.

The scene shifts and we see a note to the Flower Girl saying that she owes $22 in rent and will be evicted the next day if she cannot provide it. The Flower Girl's grandmother reads it, looking worried, but does not show it to the Flower Girl. As the Flower Girl sits down in a rocking chair, she is excited because the Tramp is coming to visit her that day. Feeling her grandmother's tears, she asks what's wrong. Her grandmother doesn't tell her about the eviction and goes out to sell flowers herself.

At the end of his workshift, the Tramp washes his face in a sink and accidentally swaps out a hunk of cheese from a coworker's sandwich for a piece of soap. Realizing what happened, the coworker gets angry at the Tramp, and soap bubbles begin flying out of his mouth as he scolds the Tramp. As he leaves, his boss reminds him to come back to work on time.

A title card reads: "To play the part of a gentleman without the millionaire was difficult, but he did his best." The Tramp goes to the Flower Girl's house and presents her with a bag of groceries, telling her that he shot the duck himself. He then reads her an article in the paper: "Vienna Doctor Has Cure For Blindness." The Flower Girl is delighted at the prospect of being able to see the Tramp, and he is excited about this too, until he realizes that if she can see, she will be able to see that he is only a tramp.


A new comedic dimension opens up when the Millionaire wakes up sober, with no recollection of having ever met the Tramp. While the previous night he made broad pronouncements of friendship and alliance with the Tramp, in the light of day, he looks at the Tramp with a baffled curiosity. Yet again, the film uses the power of opposites, and the vacillation between opposites, to heighten the comedic tension. While before it was funny that the Millionaire vacillated so starkly between suicidal and hopeful, it is now humorous the contrast between his drunk and sober self.

Funnier yet is the fact that not only does the Millionaire not recognize the Tramp when he is sober, but he goes immediately back to recognizing him when he's had a few drinks. This is not exactly how drunkenness works, yet the film suggests that the Millionaire undergoes a kind of Jekyll & Hyde transformation every time he drinks, and his sense of memory and reality is entirely altered by intoxication. This unpredictable blindspot on the part of the Millionaire makes for a comical confusion in the Tramp, who never knows when the Millionaire will remember their friendship.

Part of what makes the Tramp so comic is his inability to fit in. Everywhere he goes, he is out of step with the general attitude and behavior of others. For instance, at the party at the Millionaire's mansion, he accidentally tries to spoon some of a bald man's head onto his plate. Then, he accidentally swallows a whistle, which results in him unceremoniously interrupting a man at the piano every time he goes to sing.

The Tramp's being out of place everywhere also affords him the privilege of liminality, of being able to fit in anywhere. Things might go awry for him at a large party, but he still ends up sleeping in the Millionaire's bed and befriending a flapper or two along the way. The Tramp's out-of-place-ness is not a damning category, but one that gains him access to many different worlds. While he is literally "a tramp," he is somehow class-less, a friend to millionaires and flower girls alike.

The stakes heighten when the helpless Flower Girl gets sick and can no longer keep earning an income for her and her grandmother's rent. Determined to help the woman he loves, the Tramp gets a job. This element of the plot makes the narrative more urgent, as the viewer becomes invested in the Flower Girl's ability to make rent and not get evicted. While the narrative has been somewhat frothy up til now, this more pressurized, melodramatic scenario—that of a blind but beautiful Flower Girl facing eviction—makes the plot more suspenseful.