Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wimpyness and Silent Reconciliation

Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid is an interesting book that clearly demonstrates how pain can play a role in humor. Wimpy Kid ran against my expectations of being a light book for kids. While it is definitely funny, it doesn’t operate on a basic incongruity model. I might even go so far as to say that this book operated more on the platonic/hobbesian superiority model than did any other book we have read this semester. Almost every example of humor in the book involved either Greg getting placed in a bad situation by his parents, or his big brother Rodrick, or Rowley, or Greg placing Rowley in a bad situation, such as in the safety patrol incident. There’s a good deal of real malice involved as well. One incident that comes to mind is Greg’s reasoning for wanting to be a tree in The Wizard of Oz was that he wanted to throw apples at Patty Farrell because she requested that the map be covered up during the U.S. Capitals test, causing Greg to fail.
Looking at the title, I wondered for a while why Kinney chose the word “wimpy” to describe Greg. Many other words would have sufficed: adolescent, pre-teen, awkward, selfish, etc. Why wimpy? In reality, the only instance of Greg lacking physical strength that figured into the book at all was his losing to Fregley multiple times in the wrestling unit in P.E. By my estimation, Greg’s “wimpyness” is not physical, but mental and moral. Greg can’t stand up to anything. He doesn’t stand up for his own mistakes, such as the safety patrol incident. He doesn’t stand up for his friend Rowley when the older kids make him eat the cheese. He doesn’t stand up for his own personal opinions when his mom wants him to do the play or his dad wants him to work out. Greg avoids confrontation at all costs. He avoids responsibility.
Now, while it may seem like I don’t like Greg at all, my view of him is a little more positive than K’s was the other day in class. I think he’s just a bit immature. Even his seemingly selfless action at the end of the book is selfish because he said he only got rid of the cheese so that people would be thankful.
The end of the book was really a genuinely happy ending. The unspoken reconciliation between Rowley and Greg was heartwarming, almost. As a guy, this is the way we operate. There are no flowery, emotional speeches. No cry sessions. No brooding over a pint of Ben and Jerry’s together. That’s all girl stuff. When guys forgive, they just do and don’t say anything about it. Everything goes back to normal.
I know this is only supposed to be a one-page blog, but I’ll be back a little later to add my own story to this, as I really want to do a Humor in the World blog for this one.

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