Permalink for this paragraph 0 I would say the best thing about Mark Twain’s writing is his dry sense of humor. As a class, we briefly discussed irony (isn’t it ironic that Alanis Morissette is not ironic?) but we have not talked about literary humor in-depth. I am sure it is something worth considering, but perhaps only on a minimal scale. I am trying to think of how humor would affect our critical analysis of a work of literature, and the bell that rings in my head is Reader-Response (which one could argue affects all other branches of criticism). Though it is rarely vital to account the humor of a work, maybe there is more to funny moments in literature than we give credit.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 The short story which prompted me to write this blog is “Mama” by Dorothy Allison. This character sketch depicts the strife of a working-class woman trapped in an abusive marriage and lousy working conditions. It is told from the perspective of this woman’s daughter who adores her mother’s strength in spite of their poor circumstances. The details are heartbreaking, especially since the narrator clearly loves her mother more than anyone or anything. What amplifies the short story’s power is the author’s use of humor. This working class mama must be tough in adversity, and though her main line of defense is hiding her pain, cursing is her most prominent sheath.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 To keep the story’s plot as vague as possible… I will be vague.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 The humor accompanying the profound cursing of Mama sharply contrasts the tender moments, making both realms of emotion all the more effectual. Furthermore, the authenticity of the work reinforces the emotional elements; nothing feels forced, and readers do not have to think twice about how the work makes them feel. I will stay vague, but the sad parts of the story gripped me tighter because I was laughing out loud during the much needed comic relief. My personal favorite moment of the story involves the Divine Savior and bodily function.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 If I were to argue further about the impacts humor has upon literature, I might look into authors like Mark Twain, or explore more of Dorothy Allison’s work. This stance may glorify the work of comedians a little too much, but perhaps I am not too far off. Charlie Chaplin was a deep-thinking movie maker who longed to change the way people think, and he is one of the most well-known comedic actors (in silent films at the very least). Slapstick humor is slightly more anticipatory, which I find less compelling, but it also makes its way into literature (not that I can think of any examples off the top of my head). I appreciate the subtle humor I have found in the literature I have read in college, and perhaps it is all due to comparing it to somber classic works.