HUMOUR AND IRONY IN «THE KUGELMASS EPISODE» by Woody Allen
“The Kugelmass Episode” delivers a satisfying glimpse into the world of adultery, along with plenty of humor to clinch the attention of the reader. The story’s plot revolves around an affair the main character wants to have, and the humor the story delivers allows the reader to clearly understand the significance of the story and why the humor is vital to the main character’s actions.
"The Kugelmass Episode" uses humor and comic situations to poke fun at people and situations and to show the absurdity of human desires and pursuits. The humor in the story can be classified as satire, which is the ridicule of ideas, institutions, particular individuals, or humanity in general to lower the reader's esteem of them and make them laughable. Allen does not seem to offer heavy moral lessons in his story, but his humor does expose human failings and critiques modern humanity's particularly crass pursuit of bodily satisfaction, material wealth, and fame. The story is a parody of a number of types of people and situations. The characters are broadly drawn and have stereotypical traits. Kugelmass is an ironical portrayal of a middle-aged Jewish man undergoing a sexual crisis; his wife Daphne is a satire of an over-the-hill, unrefined and materialistic Jewish wife; Emma is a satirical imitation of shallow, celebrity-seeking, and untalented actor; and Persky makes a parody of Jewish speech and manners as well as cheap entertainers.
Using these characters, Allen also satirizes literature and high art, material pursuits, Jewish culture, and the entertainment industry. One of Allen's techniques in his satire is to present a serious situation or moment and then undercut its importance with an absurdity. The entire fantastic situation of being transported into a fictional realm is undercut by characterizing it in mundane terms. The cabinet Persky uses for Kugelmass's amazing journeys is cheap and "badly lacquered." When it malfunctions, Persky crawls under it and bangs it with a large wrench; the problem, he reveals, was with its transmission. Allen undercuts serious romantic moments often by using colloquial expressions and incongruities. Emma is dazzled by Kugelmass's modern dress, which he tells her he got on sale. She is enthralled by stories of
, and he talks about O. J. Simpson's "rushing records." Throughout the story, situations and people are mocked, practically everything they say and do reduced to complete silliness. New York
Much of the humor of "The Kugelmass Episode" comes from his characters' manner of speech, as they use a lot of slang. The tone of the language emphasizes the
setting and Jewish characters. Persky in particular uses extremely colorful phrases and one can almost hear a New York Brooklyn Jewish accent. When Kugelmass is skeptical of his transporting cabinet, he tells Kugelmass "It's the emess," then asks for a "double sawbuck" to transport him to Madame Bovary. Kugelmass, a literature professor, uses colloquial language most of the time, and when he and Emma become close begins to call her "sugar" and "cupcake." At first Emma speaks in the "same fine English translation as the paperback," but by the end of the story she is telling Kugelmass that "watching TV all day is the pits." Over and over, weighty and important matters are made absurd by the way the characters talk about them, bringing them into the realm of the ordinary and mundane. So, the most impressive quality of this short story is definitely the humour that Allen applies in such a subtle way making the story enthralling and well worth reading.