Comedy And The Power Of The Human
Spirit Essay, Research Paper
Paving the way, comedy traditionally deals with the efforts of individuals to survive and create a new and better world ? or at least one that is better than the reality the character find themselves in if only for a short period of time. In this way this genre seems to be a means of dealing with both human suffering and failure. This fact is found present in the works of Aristophanes, Voltaire and Altman dealing with a general theme of survival and creativity in their humor. In the light that these authors shed on this topic, comedy celebrates the creative and restorative power of the human spirit by mocking the very soul of their characters; through defeat and tragedy the author degrades the character?s spirit and at the same time allows enough time for their character to regain or discover their identity.
The satire found in these three works, Lysistrata, Candide, and ?M*A*S*H? is obvious but at the same time subtle. Evidence of the satire in these works is found in general through the story as a whole, however subtle criticism can be found through individual analysis. As each work progresses the satire it expresses becomes more evident, but even in the beginning the reader can find careful criticism within the sections of the work. For instance within Voltaire?s Candide, attacks are made on the Roman Catholic Church. Voltaire focuses on the hypocrisy of religion at that time, not only within the Catholic Church but Protestant, Judaism, and Islam. Underlying the satire of religious practices is Voltaire?s outrage at all forms of fanaticism and intolerance. He relentlessly exposes the cruelties acted out in God?s name. Although these attacks may seem at times too biased religion is never discredited; this is more evidence that religion in general is a dangerous area in satire.
While Voltaire attacks religion, Altman attacks war in his work M*A*S*H. Altman focuses on a mobile military hospital unit active in the middle of the Korean War. By taking on an almost documentary like film, Altman intends to draw his critics into the characters he creates. By allowing this insight into the lives of active military doctors, Altman is able to push the horror and atrocity of war into the hearts and minds of his audience. Since our country was in the middle of the Vietnam War at the time, Altman?s intended purpose was to create a satire about Vietnam without it actually taking place in Vietnam. While it may seem that Altman is just making clear the horrors of war, he actually celebrates it through his characters struggle to stay sane. Showing the viewer how tragic war can be and how much humans suffer, Altman also shows the restorative power of the human spirit through the ability of his characters to stay alive and make it home.
Somewhat different from the other two works, Lysistrata by Aristophanes celebrates the power of the human spirit in an ironic and simple satire. Lysistrata is a Greek play that deals with the joining of the women from Sparta and Athens in coordination to abstain from their men in order to arrange peace between their countries. The theme of this Greek comedy may seem all too ridiculous to perceive as possible, however the satire behind it is clever and successful. Aristophanes mocks Greek culture at that time through the interactions between his characters (for the most part between the women and the men). These interactions while seemingly absurd and ridiculous also make a very clear point about culture at that time. By mocking what the Greeks perceived as plausible as well as their attitudes towards women, Aristophanes creates a satire about their society. The creative and reconstructive power of the women?s spirit is shown through their abstinence and their courage in their goal for peace.
The satire present in these three works from Aristophanes, Altman and Voltaire suggest that there is a world that is better than the reality the character find themselves in if only for a short time. The struggle for this reality is the comedy of the piece; however difficult, the passion that pushes the character for the better is where the creative and restorative power of the human spirit is present. As we know a good writer allows for a closer more personal connection between the character and the critic; pushing the character through the worst the writer resurrects both the character and critic and in doing so celebrates the true power of the human spirit.