Humorous Techniques


Humorous Techniques: Full-Text Essay Sample

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Essay “The Female Body” by Margaret Atwood and writing “Why We Crave Horror Movies” by Stephen King are both humorous, however, the usage of humor is very different.  “The Female Body” is written using wit, practical joke, and conundrum; while “Why We Crave Horror Movies” is filled with situational humor, Freudian slip, and irony.  Despite being humorous, each author pursued different objectives:  Margaret Atwood tried to bring up an important psychological issue and change the perception of the female body through skillfully applied humor, while Stephen King had an aim to entertain the reader and point out to the root causes of why people enjoy watching horror movies.  Even though both essays, “The Female Body” and “Why We Crave Horror Movies”, are very different, the humorous elements contribute to the better comprehension of the raised themes. 

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The writing “The Female Body” starts with the play of words (conundrum).  The author noted that the image of the female body has become a hot topic and advised to look around and pay attention to other problem.  Margaret Atwood repeated the word “topics” many times in the first two paragraphs to describe her own life and body.  The reader starts smiling from the first lines because the author has skillfully linked her own life problems with the problems of an average person.  She applied metaphors to draw the picture of herself:  “my topic feels like hell.  I sprinkle it with water, brush part of it, rub it with towels, powder it, add lubricant.”  It is clear that in these lines, the author was talking about her face, even though the word “face” is not mentioned even once. 

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An essay “Why We Crave Horror Movies” starts with rather a serious tone.  Stephen King talks about the strange habits and actions of people and makes fun of them, even though indirectly.  For example, he wrote, “we’ve all known people who talk to themselves, people who sometimes squinch their faces into horrible grimaces when they believe no one is watching, people who have some hysterical fear...”  Sure, everybody has met such people and their fears and habits made us smile.  Nevertheless, the humor technique applied in these lines is rather negative because the joke is made on the personal fears which cannot be controlled (black humor).

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Both authors apply situational humor:   Atwood compares female body with a doll and provides colorful descriptions, while King compares watching horror movies with riding a roller coaster.  Atwood exaggerated the attributes of female body and characterized it as an object, rather than an organism.  In particular, the line “the female body is made of transparent plastic and lights up when you plug it in..  you press a button to illuminate the different systems.”  Sure, the female body is not made of plastic and there is no button on it.  It is hard to understand the intended meaning of this line.  King, on the other side, completely changed the direction of his essay in the following line:  “fun comes from seeing other menaced – sometimes killed”.  If to consider this line aside of essay, every person would reject its validity, however, in the context of the whole essay, it appears to be a bare truth.  Thus, the author applied irony in this sentence.  

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Essay by Margaret Atwood is more positive and easy to read because the author did not try to make fun of female body.  On the contrary, the intention was to stress the real beauty of female body.  For example, the author wrote, “it gives a young girl a false notion of beauty, not to mention anatomy.  If a real woman was built like that she’d fall on her face.”   These two sentences are humorous (wit type of humor is used) and are the turning point of the essay.  If previous descriptions were not related to real female body image, the second part of the essay is expected to provide more realistic descriptions.   Through the application of humorous techniques, the author raised a serious problem of female body image distortion.  In the line “she’ll long for one and she’ll long to turn into one” Atwood raised the issue of why teenagers suffer from poor body image. 

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King, on the contrary, applied completely different humorous techniques.  In particular, he includes many comments which are not really related to the topic (horror movies) but which set the humorous tone for an essay.  The line “your insanity leads you only to talk to yourself when you’re under stress or to pick your nose on your morning bus, then you are left alone to go about your business … though it is doubtful that you will ever be invited to the best parties”.  King used Freudian slip type of humor in this line:  the final comment is not related to the previous thought; however, it makes the reader laugh aloud.   These small, but so humorous, elements are lacking in an essay “The Female Body”, it is more logically structured and there are no unexpected turning points.  

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The most humorous part of “The Female Body” essay is a comparison between male and female brain.  This is how female brain is described: “each of these brains has two halves.  They’re joined together by a thick cord… How does a woman know?  She listens.”  This is how male brain is described: “only a thin connection, space over here, time over there, music and arithmetic in their own sealed compartments.”  Of course, the comparison is based on epigram and metaphor; however, these types of humor are so skillfully applied that the reader cannot even reject the validity of the comparison.  Even though Atwood described females as unable to reason (receiving information only through listening), while males are presented as objective and reasonable, there is no satire. 

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Stephen King integrated several well-known jokes into his essay to support his point of view.  He compared horror movie with the sick joke, the one that deliberately “appeals to all that is worst in us.”  The author continued that the best horror movies, like the best fairy tales, are reactionary, anarchistic, and revolutionary at the same time.  The three adjectives used to describe horror movies are not fitting together and it makes the comment humorous.   “Why We Crave Horror Movies” would be boring to read if humor was not in it.  Sure, the raised topic is interesting and appealing, however, talking about horror movies without humor would not impress a reader.  

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In conclusion, both Margaret Atwood and Stephen King created masterpieces of humorous essays.  Each of them applied different humor techniques and intended to reach different audiences, they both succeeded in making the reader laugh.  Even though it is hard to understand some of the points made by Atwood, the logical essay structure makes the topic easy to grasp.  Stephen King, unlike Atwood, applied some elements of black humor, however, managed to turn them into a positive smile.  The authors showed that even serious topics can be discussed using humor without losing informational value.  

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