Samuel Clemens, Local
Color, and the Nature of Humor
|Local Color Writing
- Attempts to picture the language, culture, and geography of a certain
- Tends to be humorous and/or sentimental in its portraits of daily
- Often relies on dialect, particular mannerisms, and eccentric
- While it is both a species and (in some cases) a precursor of
Euro-American Realism, it does not attempt the high seriousness noted for realism;
instead, it tends to focus more on atmosphere and personality sketches.
- It does reject the dominance of European, and particularly
British, settings for fiction.
- It also rejects Romanticized notions of plot and character
- Its purpose is more to entertain than to inspire or educate.
- Most of it grew out of short stories published in circulating
magazines and newspapers.
Observations from Clemens' "How to Tell a Story"
Stresses manner of telling
Willingly wanders from place to place with little
Particular kind of art needed
Oral in its origins
Told seriously with an attempt to hide the humor
Ends with a "nub" or "snapper",
an unexpected trick on the audience
Must carefully manage the "pause"
|Comic or Witty Story
British or French
Stresses subject matter
Must have a brief, concise pattern
Clemens insists no art is needed
Perhaps writterly in its creation
Told with comedy clear and present
Doesn't attempt to hide the point
- What are the elements of local color (particualr regional language,
eccentric characterization, and/or sentimental detail) in "Jim Smiley,"
"The Story of the Old Ram" and "Buck Fanshawe"?
- How do they represent, according to Twain's definitions, examples of
humorous instead of witty stories?
|Look over the material from "The Nature of Humor." Pay close attention to the basics
regarding how humor works and the ethics that humor can practice. We will use the
theology material next week with Twain.
- What kind of ethical responses does Twain's humor encourage in his
audience? Name some examples.
- Identify the type or types of humor (cf. Fowler chart) present in the
following stories by Twain. Be sure to point to specific examples from the text to
support your point:
- "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar" (195-199)
- "Cannibalism in the Cars" (28-36)
- "Map of Paris" (53-58)
- Whittier Birthday Speech" (134-139)
- "A Cat Tale" (145-155)