City Lights

City Lights Summary and Analysis of Part 4: Boxing


The Tramp goes and puts the groceries away, then asks the Flower Girl what she is knitting. She mistakenly grabs a thread from the Tramp's vest and begins knitting with it. The Tramp doesn't know how to stop it and keeps feeding her thread.

We see a quick shot of the grandmother selling flowers on the street, when the scene shifts back to the Flower Girl, creating an even larger ball of yarn from the Tramp's vest. As she finishes, the Tramp goes and picks up a book, but when he opens it, the eviction notice falls out onto the floor. He picks it up and the Flower Girl asks him to read it to her. When he does, she begins to sob, but he comforts her by telling her he will pay it first thing in the morning. Kissing her hand, the Tramp leaves the house assuring her that he will help her.

When the Tramp arrives back at work late, his boss tells him he has been late too many times and fires him. As the Tramp walks away, dejected, a man invites him to come into a boxing ring and box for some easy money.

That night, the Tramp waits to go into the boxing ring. He looks intimidated as he looks at the other men around him. He turns to the man he will be fighting and reiterates a deal they have come to: "Remember, we split fifty-fifty; and you promise you won't hurt me." They shake on it and prepare for the fight.

The Tramp goes over to get a cup of water, when a messenger enters the boxing locker room and delivers a message to the Tramp's opponent, telling him that the cops are after him and he needs to get out of town. Hurriedly, the Tramp's opponent gets dressed and makes a run for it, disregarding his deal with the Tramp.

The boss at the ring pulls over a particularly intimidating fighter and asks if he wants to fight for $50. The man agrees and the boss tells the Tramp that this is his new opponent. The Tramp looks over at the man and smiles effeminately. When the Tramp sees a boxer using a lucky rabbit's foot before the match, he asks him if he can rub it on himself too. Suddenly, a flurry of activity breaks out in the locker room and the man with the rabbit foot goes to fight. The Tramp rubs himself with the rabbit foot again and smiles coyly at his opponent, who goes behind a curtain to change.

The Tramp whispers to his opponent, proposing that they take it easy and split it 50-50, but his opponent has no interest. All of a sudden, they bring back the fighter who has the rabbit's foot. He is badly beaten up, and the Tramp suddenly regrets having ever used his rabbit's foot.

It is the Tramp's turn, and he goes into the ring, frightened. A bunch of men try to get him fired up. He shakes everyone's hand jubilantly and the fight begins. Surprisingly, the Tramp does quite well, getting some good punches in in the fight. During the break, some men try to pump him up and he has a hallucination that the Flower Girl is touching him.

As round two begins, the Tramp again fights surprisingly well. He gets punched a few times, but then comes back at his opponent. In another round, the Tramp gets completely knocked out and his opponent wins.


Part of how the Tramp gets himself into such messy scenarios is the fact that he does not quite know how to call for help when something is going wrong. This is especially true when the Flower Girl begins unraveling his vest accidentally, instead of using the yarn she just handed him. The Tramp doesn't have the heart to tell her that she is literally taking the clothes off his back, and so goes out of his way to help give her more thread from his vest. His self-sacrificing due to his love for her becomes an especially comedic choreography.

Once the Flower Girl knows she is being evicted, it becomes all the more imperative that the Tramp find a way to help her. The only problem is, he is consistently late to work, and loses his job immediately after promising to pay off the Flower Girl's debts. For all his good intentions, the Tramp's unease with the structures of the world cost him a great deal.

Luckily for the viewer, the Tramp's firing opens up the opportunity for a particularly comic moment of truth, in which he fights in a boxing match for money. The bumbling Tramp is hardly a likely candidate for a prizefighter, and his clumsy slapstick antics, and somewhat effeminate physicality—particularly when lined up against the brutish boxers at the ring—are the perfect ingredients for an impressively chaotic Chaplin routine.

The Tramp's liminal identity is represented not only in his narrative, but also in his visual affect as well. No matter what he is doing, Charlie Chaplin looks like Charlie Chaplin, and stands out from the people around him due to his idiosyncratic makeup, mustache, and bowler hat. This subtle visual cue tells us that the Tramp is somehow out-of-step with the world around him, uniquely different from the rest of the world. Nowhere is this clearer than at the boxing match, where is surrounded by stone-faced, hulking and intimidating fighters. Meanwhile, he sits with his jacket over his shoulders, shirtless, but with his usual cap and bewildered expression, a clown who has lost his way.

Charlie Chaplin's physical looseness, the idiosyncratic and clownish elasticity of his body, lends itself to the performative movements of the boxing ring. The Tramp does better than one might expect him to do in the match, in part because his body is almost inhumanly resilient and because it follows such illogical physical patterns. The unwieldiness of the Tramp's movements, his unpredictability and fundamental misunderstanding of how the physical world actually works, makes him an unintentionally wily boxer.