Monday, March 25, 2013

dark humor

slaughter house five

After finishing Slaughter House Five, I feel as though my definition of humor has yet again expanded. When I first began this semester, humor to me was a funny joke, wit, or a comedian. Throughout the course, I have added on to my definition dramatically. Now, I can relate humor to the Relief Theory, the Superiority Theory, or even the Incongruity Theory. Humor is a means of expression, release, and pleasure. 

Humor can be the laughter induced by someone else's pain, the outburst of laughter when one releases their struggles and frustration, or one can even find humor in unexpected situations. Upon reading Vonnegut's Slaughter House Five, humor in my mind has developed further. 

Dark Humor. That is the plain and simple definition of Vonnegut's commentary about the Dresden bombing, which many of us had unfortunately heard of before. When I read this book, I caught myself feeling rather indifferent about the content, which I find surprising. This novel is filled with commentary that runs all over the map, time traveling, fighting in wars, and drunkenly calling old friends. The reading itself was rather simple to take in, but I wouldn't consider this novel an "easy read." I believe that there are many underlying messages being conveyed through the text, especially that of dark humor. 

Dark humor, also known as black comedy or humor, is a form of humor that makes light of otherwise depressing, saddening, or dark subjects: Dresden bombing. 

The Dresden bombing was a massacre that took the lives of over 25,000 innocent humans. With a topic like this, one would expect a serious commentary on the struggle of the innocent, the fight for life, etc. But, playing off of the Incongruity Theory, the readers are provided with a much different volume of text. 

Vonnegut explains that he originally wanted to write a book about the Dresden bombings, but could never remember enough to write about. The rest of the book follows the life of Billy Pilgrim, who travels through time, communicates and interacts with aliens and fights in the bloody war. Throughout the novel, the main character is all over the place, switching from the commentary on the hot shower in the war camps, to the spaceship the Tralfamadorians picked him up in. In this sense, it may be viewed as a more "difficult read." 

I believe that one of the main reasons this novel is viewed as dark humor is because Vonnegut actually did survive the Dresden bombing, allowing ourselves to justify the fact that the seriousness of the topic is extracted, in a way. I do believe that if an outsider, one who did not take part in the vulgar war and bombing of Dresden, the commentary would be even more greatly criticized. Because some of the accounts do come first hand experiences, the humor within Vonnegut's writings are accepted as dark humor, not inappropriate. Although this book is banned frequently banned in schools, it is a well-known novel, explicitly explained as dark humor. 

One of my favorite (I suppose I should use favorite lightly) scenes near the end of the novel is the man and his tea pot. I believe I viewed the scene as humorous because of the chaos and violence occurring all around the battlefield, and one man is killed primarily because he stole a tea pot. There, I believe, Vonnegut's humor, and possibly disgust, with the war is deeply expressed. 

As an anti-war book, Vonnegut wrote the novel in an unexpected and creative way, which possibly has led to its great popularity and well-known nature. As I mentioned before, as I read the novel I found myself indifferent to the writing, neither enjoying it nor disliking it. I think I merely accepted the writings as it came, which I am going to try to continue implementing as I read future novels, in an effort to expand my own creativity and enjoyment. 

until our next laugh, 

amanda hubbs 

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