Comedy Analysis: “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” by Mark Twain and “You Can’t Kill the Rooster” by David Sedaris





Comedy Analysis: “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” by Mark Twain and “You Can’t Kill the Rooster” by David Sedaris

The narratives, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” by Mark Twain and “You Can’t Kill the Rooster” by David Sedaris, are striking illustrations of comedies that undeniably utilize different components of this genre to elicit jovial and generally positive sentiments among various audiences. Despite the fact that each story covers a fair share of controversial elements that raise concerns regarding the content, they constitute comedies that possess specific dimensions or elements that undeniably influence the audience to initiate different responses. In respect to the content evidenced in the respective stories, it is arguably evident that Mark Twain’s “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” and David Sedaris’ “You Can’t Kill the Rooster” exhibit instances of irony and incongruity that constitute parts of the comedy assessed and explored by Dan O’Shannon in What are You Laughing At? A Comprehensive Guide to the Comedic Event.

From a rather subjective point of view, it is evident that the works of Twain and Sedaris display the application of cruelty. Throughout the narratives, the reader is capable of sensing a plethora of dark or pessimistic sentiments associated with the experiences that each protagonist undergoes in respect to their families. In “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”, the writer expresses depressive sentiments especially when his father exhibits disappointment in contrast to his brother who was capable of handling the musings that their paternal parent uttered via mouthful cusses and low academic performance. The same instance is also evident in Twain’s narrative. Accordingly, the author expresses that the design of his life on the basis of the stories that the old man succeeded in depressing him since it “bore me nearly to death with some infernal reminiscence of him” (Twain 1). Indeed, it is evident that the protagonist was reluctant to sit and listen to the aged man.

Aside from the similarities that the stories possess in relation to black comedies, another aspect that is evident between the narratives in question comprises incongruity. Incongruity, as an element of comedy, assumes a significant role in the establishment of a funny ambiance and atmosphere. Twain’s narrative was presumed to be comedic and funny despite the personality of the narrator. Simply, the narrator exhibited a peaceful and calm demeanor, a steady tone, and exuded admiration for the two protagonists from time to time. According to Twain, the narrator did not smile nor frown, did not alter his gentle voice, and possessed an impressive sense of sincerity and solemnity (2). Usually, when people engage in the narration of things that are deemed funny, they tend to laugh as they talk or participate in the utilization of facial expressions and gestures to reinforce the comic element.

The difference between the narrator and the manner in which most people narrate funny stories or events clearly illustrates the presence of incongruity in the narrative as indicated by Twain’ narrator (O’Shannon 121). The notion of inconsistency is also evidenced in Sedaris’ story. Accordingly, it materializes in the disparity that exists between the different personalities exhibited by the father and his son in relation to the words that they conveyed when they communicated. More specifically, this difference is evidenced in respect to the bad language and abusive words that the son utilizes such as the “vernacular term for the female genitalia” and the polite and ‘clean’ language that the paternal parent irrespective of the former’s language (Sedaris 6). The presence of incongruity in Twain’s “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” and Sedaris’ “You Can’t Kill the Rooster” succeed in the establishment of comedy due to the absurdities that the characters exhibit.

Apart from incongruity, another part of comedy that seems present in Twain’s “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” and Sedaris’ “You Can’t Kill the Rooster” involves irony. I the latter, Sedaris managed to exhibit the respective element to place emphasis on the difference between the politeness of the father and the brash attitude of his son. In fact, it is ironic that a naughty young man is present in a household that is comprised of a gentle and calm father as well as polite siblings. In this sense, the aspect of irony clearly establishes a significant mismatch regarding what the audience expects in terms of the boy’s attitudes. Aside from literal irony, it is also possible to denote a sense of abstract irony, especially when reading the narrative in question (O’Shannon 49). When the narrator describes the naughty boy by likening him the attitude of his mother to the bewildered curiosity of a clutch hen because of the child’s differences from his siblings, the reader immediately notices this abstract irony and laughs even though it remains absent in the narrative.

The notion of irony is illustrated in Twain’s narrative in respect to the events that lead to the demise of the dog, Andrew Jackson. Accordingly, the author engages in the application of the device in a skilled manner that O’Shannon defines as accomplishing an unintended effect despite achieving a particular effect, particularly an ironic twist (O’Shannon 52). While narrating the events regarding the death of Andrew Jackson, the narrator asserts that the dog would be capable of winning if he were actually able to snare the rivals’ hind legs if it were not for bad luck. Since the rival did not possess hind legs, the dog became depressed and eventually died. The fact that such offense was applied in respect to Andrew Jackson’s story succeeded in eliciting an ironic relief among readers from a subversive perspective. As such, it is impossible to deny the presence of irony as a factor responsible for achieving unintended comedic relief across both narratives.

Even though the narratives in question possess numerous common aspects, they also exhibit a myriad of disparities. One of these differences involves the writing patterns utilized by Twain and Sedaris. Twain engaged in the application of several slang words uttered by the local persons to initiate a response. For instance, while narrating the circumstances responsible for Andrew Jackson’s death, the author writes that “A dog once that didn’t have no hind legs” (Twain 5). This statement defies the laws of proper English due to the use of double negatives, which may likely exhibit affirmation rather than denial, which was the main aim of the locals. For persons that do not understand, the application of such words and language is an inhibiting force hence leading to confusion as well as a reduction in experiencing the comical effect in contrast to individual that possess a practical understanding of the words or phrases.

In Sedaris’ narrative, the notion of the local accent is exhibited significantly across his narrative. However, in contrast to Twain’s writing pattern, Sedaris does not depend on the language and words of the local people to initiate a response. Rather than do this, Sedaris uses certain phrases and lingo with a view to advance the story and push it forward. In addition to this, the respective author uses such words or phrases in order to add a comedic element to his story via the creation of a funny and entertaining atmosphere. To this end, Mark Twain and David Sedaris exhibit exemplary mastery of the comedy genre in respect to their narratives, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” and  “You Can’t Kill the Rooster” respectively, especially by using the aspects of incongruity and irony to their advantage despite the structural disparities.

Works Cited

O’Shannon, Dan. What Are You Laughing At? A Comprehensive Guide to the Comedic Event. New York: Continuum, 2012. Print.

Sedaris, David. Me Talk Pretty One Day. Boston: Little Brown, 2000. Print.

Twain, Mark. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.

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