Black humor is a kind of comedy with tragic color, also a kind of desperate comedy. Black humor novels strive to highlight the ridiculous cold of survival environment, taunt and attack the traditional values and aesthetic concepts, and the expression of the alienation of the world, human nature and broken emotion. Black humor can be said to be anti-rational and anti-idealism literature, and the artistic features of which can be attributed to the special theme, the type of «anti-hero» characters and the anti-novel narrative structure.
Background of «Black Humor».
The Social Background of «Black Humor».
The history of thought must be its social history and cultural history in a period of time. The formation of «black humor» mainly has an important social background, that is the Second World War.
World War II is the most brutal and destructive in the history of mankind, which has a tremendous impact on the black humors. Although they survived from the Second World War, most of them are psychologically difficult to extricate themselves, and they are confused about the responsibility of human and the future. In the Second World War, the fact that Hitler wantonly killed the innocent Jews and the Americans dropped the bombs in Hiroshima, Japan, makes a lingering shadow in their heart, They believe that the so-called justice, patriotic feelings, humanitarian and human values are not there.
Literary Background of Black Humor.
As is known to all, humor can be traced back to ancient Greece. Gifted comic writers wrote a great number of works of folk customs under the influence of Ali Stouffer and Platon. It is reasonable for people to say that the European literature comes from the Greek and Rome literature, but the United States is also the storage center of humor. Mark Twain and Chopin took humorto a climax before World War II, but their sense of humor is external, optimistic, and intended to satirize others. While «black humor» is the inner, pessimistic aiming at the protagonist himself, the two can not be compared. It does not cover the terrible things that are perceived, but brings the fact to be satirized exposed in front of the reader.
The Relationship between «Black Humor» and Traditional Humor.
As is known to all, the United States has a long history of humor which occupies a pivotal position in the history of the United States. The humor formed distinct personality characteristics in the influence of unique history and culture in the history of the United States. Obviously, «black humor» is different from the traditional tragedy and comedy, it forms a unique new art form by combining the contents of the traditional tragedy and the effect of the traditional comedy.
On one hand, the «black humor» adopts the absurd technique, and abandons the serious nature of the traditional tragedy. Traditional tragedies tend to put the hero in the fierce conflict between love, family, country and religion, so that the volition has to face the test of life. While in «black humor», masters all encompassing in addition to the traditional shape, such as devising livelihoods of their own, being indifferent to the society. Therefore, it is very difficult for them to sink in the contradiction of the traditional tragedy. In addition, the substance of struggle and unremitting striving to noble in traditional tragedy has been replaced by«absurdity» and «desperate» in the «black humor».
On the other hand, the black humor also challenges the traditional comedy. First, the protagonist of the traditional comedy is often representative of the new things and advanced power, they are full of optimism and confidence in the justice. While the hero in the black humor is just a small figure in the community, which itself is not worth being ridiculed. Secondly, there is also a big difference in the traditional comedy and black humor in the «laugh». The traditional comedy tends to use the smile to express the negation of the hero. While the smile in the «black humor» refers to cry in fact. Last but also the most important, black humor combines the rational content of the traditional comedy. In a traditional comedy, the things to be laughed at are often wrong but corrective. By laughing at some irrational behavior, the writers will show to the audience that reason will eventually prevail. However, the performance of black humor is that the reason itself can also lead to some doubt. In Catch -22, although look reasonable,the military regulations are absurd because they can not be denied.
Artistic Features of Black Humor.
Special Subject Matter.
In order to tune the overall theme of black humor, black humor writer first explore the theme in the field of science and technology. Most of them are university teachers with a wide range of knowledge, and like the introduction of knowledge and terminology of Natural Science to literary works. «Catch-22» makes the experience of an American air force squadron in World War II as a theme, but the purpose of the author is depicting the inner experience of humanity in the hostile environment. Besides that, the author also exposes the intrigues, war profiteering and corruption of U. S. troops in a certain extent. According to the military regulations, all insane persons can not complete the task of fighting, and demanded repatriation. But this military regulation also requires that any people are not allowed to leave home who propose his spirit is not normal, as because which proves that his spirit is very normal. This military regulation makes the soldiers that served in the military under teaseand suffering.
These subjects themselves are not limited to the analysis and disclosure of the scope of its description, but greatly beyond the surface of the subject matter forming a metaphor to the mental and social problems, which expresses the author’s view of the historical process. They think they have the right to comment on the fate of human beings, and to portray the inner world of the whole of mankind, in fact they are just standing in their own specific social status, the subject matters also out of the main practice of human, namely productive labor.
«Anti-hero» Type of Character Shaping.
«Hero», in the traditional sense, is generally fighting for the new value system, they struggle and will eventually succeed. They always do things like this, or choose to fight against an extreme American tradition or choose a suitable place like everyone else. And the hero who is portrayed in black humor novels is in a very absurd world. They are different from the traditional heroes.
The different feature between the hero of the black humor novels and traditional hero is the kind of passive treatment of live, they are full of helplessness and hopelessness on the fate, and this attitude towards life decides that they can only choose a rueful smile; though they may be aware of their predicament, and they was in pain or undergoing some scary things, they lost courage to struggle for their own value or to a new value system.Their existencesare absurd in a certain extent. Such a role in the book is usually a pity for us. However, the use of funny way of black humor let readers be away from sympathy and compassion. Such a hero is different from the traditional heroes who rely on social order or a certain objective laws to achieve their own ideals, they live in their own circle of life, and don’t change their own and make a difference. They will not be lost because of the cruelty and suffering of the society, nor do they remain indifferent or escape from the society. Only when they are seeking to establish relationships with others, they will be afraid of their position, and shrug for their lives.
«Anti-novel» Narrative Structure.
Traditional novels take a narrative method of telling a story, and have a full story structure in general. While «black humor» literary usesmany techniques, such as, contrast, metaphor and symbolism, creating a dramatic new method. It breaks the limits of time and space, can transcend social, moral, customs and ideas. It has neither the structure nor the story line and strict structure.
Time travel technique is one of the characteristics of «anti-novel» narrative of black humor. It breaks the conventional notions of space and time, such as the «Slaughterhouse Five», the author continues to enable spatio-temporal crisscross, and use film techniques, frequently switch lens, making the logic relation of time blurring, finallyit is not easy to discern the true and magic. In order to allow readers to understand the essence of the bombing of Dresden, Vonnegurt had to abandon the traditional time and space mechanism, expressed the horrors of war using a new way of combiningthe time space and science fiction. At the same time, the author makes the past, the present and the future connected with each other by using this absurd narrative structure, which shows the flexibility of the narrative. Whirling elusive at first glance, but this is a special stacked structure in fact, which is useful for the rapid expansion of the plot and deepening of the theme.
The presentations of «anti-novel»narrative structure of black humor include:
- ambiguous narrating. A clear border between the person and the author;
- As a result of ambiguous narrating, readers can always feel the author’s existence;
- Re-definite the people’s sense of time and historical characteristics, and the current becomes the epitome of all ludicrous experience;
- Use imitation to make oral record as a real subjective response;
- Traditional plot is covered by many independent events and surface details, and the plot will not cover all the themes of the novel. Therefore, the theme and the plot is no longer always focus on a certain points;
- Activities and ideas often appear in the negative formto expand the reader’s perspective.
The black humor novels successfully conveyed the people’ tear, and even despair for the society at that time, and created a unique artistic expression technique. Black humor has its unique artistic features, this paper mainly summarizes three aspects: the special theme, «anti-hero» type of character and «anti-novel» narrative structure.A lot of writers bring a new feeling to the readers by the style of subverting the traditional literary, and convey the vision of the human existence by their unique ways. At the same time, it also provides people with a detached perspective, let people look at their own life, and points out a road full of hope. Black humor novels will be cast into the shade because of the time change, but it will continue to shine in the literary world.
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