Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ring Lardner and Comedy

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Has something made you laugh today? The truth is that in our society today, comedy is self-evident in everything that we do. What would life be like without the aid of humor to ease our long day? I’ll tell you, there would be nothing but a bunch of miserable people walking around making everyone else around them that much more miserable. Ring Lardner Senior throughout his short stories makes it apparent that he also believes in how important comedy is to everyday lives. Therefore, Ring Lardner Sr. uses comic devices and a simplistic diction in order to convey the theme of competition between men in society.

Comic devices such as slapstick, which is defined as comedy in the form of crude practical jokes, are commonly introduced in the writings of Lardner to show the competition found within a society. The short story, “The Haircut”, introduces Jim as the main character that is desperately battling a doctor for the love of a woman. Jim decides to set up a prank that would cast negativity towards the doctor. The competition between these two men grew by the moment over just a woman. Such pranks are also found in most of Lardner’s sports writings, many of which deal with baseball. The pranks found in the sport oriented stories are commonly used to extend the competition from the baseball diamond to outside society. In “The Roomy,” an example of this kind of this “kidding” around is found in the quote, “Heine raised an awful holler after the second night down there and John put a bug in (the bed) with Needham.” (TR) The grudge between these two baseball players was obviously brought from the field into their everyday lives.

Lardner can take any event and make it comical. Situational comedy is commonly developed In “The Golden Honeymoon” by Lardner. It quotes, “Well, you had a chance fifty years ago to always have her for a partner, but you wasn’t man enough to keep her.”(GH) Cheap shots like these increased the grudge between two men over, once again, a woman. Although this may seem like a simple snappy comeback, the way Lardner positions it into the story makes the reader snicker at the remark. Lardner and few others have this ability to turn the most solemn situation into a joyful one. At the end of “The Haircut,” it focuses on Jim’s death caused by a gun accident. When a character from the story was asked about the incident all he could reply was that “Jim was a sucker to leave a new beginner have his gun, let alone a half-wit”(TH) which was obviously a very cold hearted thing to say. To any normal person death would be a very grave issue at hands, but not in a Ring Lardner short story. The death of Jim is viewed by the characters as humorous happening as they poke fun at the way that he tragically died.

Lardner’s use of simplistic diction feeds right into the comedy aspect of his writing. The way Larder positions his words in a sentence enable the reader to gain a better grasp of the story. Just the use of simple sentences allows a elementary child to understand the story. Lardner likes to end his stories in a very particular way. For example in “The Golden Honeymoon,” the story ends with “Here comes Mother, so I best shut up.” (GH) A very similar ending is found in “The Haircut”; “Comb it wet or dry?” (TH) As seen, Lardner abruptly ends his short stories leaving the reader with and odd feeling of satisfaction.

The comedy in Larder’s stories is quite different from the comedy of what we find on the television, in the newspaper, or even on the radio in today’s modern world. I wonder what his reaction would be to this new slang that had been introduced into today’s society. The competition that occurs between two opposing forces in his stories is usually male versus male and the competition is inevitable in every society. There is no avoiding it no matter how hard you try. The theme of competition runs wild throughout all of Lardner’s stories with the aid of comedy right beside it.



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