Saturday, February 11, 2017

Humor Used for Change

Similarly to Tales of the Tikongs, “Betel Nut is Bad Magic for Airplanes” uses humor to effect social or behavioral change in the audience. Kasaipwalova employs humor to lighten the mood of a heavier, social justice oriented story. This serves to develop a sense of kinship between the author and his audience. We are immediately on the side of the people chewing the betel nut. By referring to the white people in the airport as “puppies,” Kasaipwalova does not allow his readership to take them seriously. Early on in the story, the “puppy he gets very angry” and yells at the people for chewing betel nut (433). An angry puppy barking at people is a cute picture. It’s not exactly something we would validate and get behind as an audience. We immediately assume that the anger is unfounded. This makes Kasaipwalova’s job easier now that he does not have to convince the audience that the white people in the airport are in the wrong.

In Candide, Voltaire makes use of the Incongruity Theory we’ve been talking about in class to raise philosophical questions. Everyone who tells their story in the novel must one up the last person, so the tales become more and more ridiculous as the story goes on. Personally, I didn’t find many of them particularly funny, but they were shocking. Cacambo tells Candide that he is “surprised at everything,” and who can blame him with the crazy circumstances that seem to follow his every move (38)? The El Dorado episodes present the clearest example of Incongruity Theory. The people there flip just about every expected circumstance on its head. The children play in dirt made of “gold, that of emeralds, the other rubies” and think nothing of it when Candide tries to give them back the rocks they left behind (41). The citizens of the city laugh at Cacambo and Candide when they try to pay for dinner using “pebbles” (42). Everything in the city is luxurious to the extreme, and people are unaffected by it. All of this ridiculousness is employed to ask the audience why they place so much value in gold and precious stones when, in reality, they are just rocks from the ground. In this case, Incongruity Theory is being used to get the audience to think about what they value in life and why.

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