Monday, February 6, 2017

Humor Theories Used in Polk County

     Hurston makes liberal use of the humor theories discussed in the Descartes, Spencer, and Freud readings. Descartes claims there are only six basic emotions, and that laughter is found in three of them: "wonder, (mild) hatred, and joy" (21). The characters in Polk County exhibit these three emotions whenever there is the most laughter going on. A stage direction on page 278 shows characters being awestruck by something Lonnie says before breaking into laughter. Descartes also claims that whenever someone has "laughed much," they are more inclined to be serious because the more fluid blood has been exhausted making way for the course blood of sadness (23). While I fail to find the theory of happy and sad blood believable, Lonnie behaves this way when he gets the mysterious letter we later find out was a fake staged by Dicey.
     She defies Spencer's theory can that people who "conceal their anger are habitually found to be more revengeful than those who explode in loud speech," but Hurston does not give us an example of one who holds in their anger so there is no one to compare Dicey to to figure out if Spencer is correct (103). From life experience, I have found his theory to be true, but it is not played out fully in Polk County. Instead, we have Dicey frequently exploding into rage-filled action and pulling out her knife whenever something goes wrong in the slightest way. Dicey is always doing things the opposite way from everybody else in the play. Another stage direction shows everybody laughing "but Dicey" (284).
     One situation that comes to mind when considering Freud's theory on humor is the standoff on the porch between Big Sweet and Leafy. The air is tense in this scene, full of "hostility or cold indifference" (298). After staring at each other for a while, "Leafy breaks into a grin" prompting Big Sweet to smile also (298). Freud says "the energy of repression is released in laughter," and that surely is the case between Big Sweet and Leafy when they dissolve into laughter after their stare-down (111).

No comments:

Post a Comment