January 29, 2005

It Didn't Make Me Laugh

Apparently Denis T. Askin does not understand comedy. Someone needs to rent her some funny movies and fast so she can learn about it because she finds comedy in Flannery O’Conner’s stories.

Perhaps she has a different meaning of the word. Yes, that is all I can assume after reading her article. Askin isn’t finding “laugh until you cry” humor in O’Conner’s stories but instead a sort of ironic humor. Two opposites are portrayed in the stories, just to show the differences between the two. Corrupt or unjust people end up getting what they ultimately deserve. What they deserve, however, is usually death.

Honestly, I found the essay a little hard to understand, even with a rereading. Askin and I obviously have difference views on what makes something “comedic”. Although I tried to reason that maybe to O’Conner, a southern woman and Catholic who obviously had experienced a lot of pain, I wasn’t finding any comedy. I need more than contrasting characters and ironic situations.

Posted by VanessaKolberg at January 29, 2005 10:55 PM | TrackBack

You're right that the literary definition of "comedy" isn't necessarily the same as the everyday definition. One reason O'Connor is studied so much is because the darkness at the core of her comedy is like the salvation at the core of her tragedy. Note that the grandmother's final action was a selfless one, and when we look down at her body, she is described as childish and otherwise innocent. She seems to have had a moment of redemption and transformation -- even if it took the deaths of her family members to find it in her to claim The Misfit as one of her own. Isn't that the Christian message, though -- that we are all brothers and sisters, that Christ found each of us -- even the unpleasant and rude and selfish among us -- worthy of a violent death on the cross? The grandmother leads the family on a side-quest to find a southern plantation that she remembers from her youth, but the path leads to even deeper self-knowledge.

Note also that Aikin's title refers to "comedic form," not "comedy". O'Connor uses the formal elements of comedy -- surprise, character-based flaws and foibles, ordinary people placed in absurd situations, and does something unusual and shocking with those elements.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at January 30, 2005 9:47 AM

Hey, Vanessa, I agree with you! I posted something similiar on my blog (you'll see a trackback! ;) After a while, I guess I got O'Connor's point but I still don't see it as funny when a whole family gets shot and killed. hah! ;c)

Posted by: moira at January 30, 2005 10:21 AM

Figures the literary definition of "comedy" would be something else entirely. Just when you start to understand something...

Thanks for explaining it a bit further Dr. Jerz. I think I'll need some help with a few of these stories.

Posted by: Nessa at January 30, 2005 12:27 PM

I laughed... Of course, you're hearing this from "One Dismal Poet." Ha! I must have a sick sense of humor! ;')

Posted by: Evan at January 30, 2005 10:18 PM

I laughed, I cried, I ate a Slim Jim. :P

But on a more serious note, I think that O'Connor's method is to use the elements of comedy that Dr. Jerz described to paint us the 'imperfect picture', so-to-speak, which (as we discussed in class) shows us what *not* to be like... Defining wrong, as the absence of right.

Posted by: ChrisU at January 31, 2005 4:04 AM

I didn't laugh, cry, and certainly did not eat a Slim Jim. Ugh.

Evan- yeah, you do. Sorry buddy. Haha.

Posted by: Nessa at January 31, 2005 8:08 AM
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