UBC Theses and Dissertations
The role of black humour in the plays of George F. Walker Walsh, Una Therese
The world posited by George F. Walker in his plays is unrelentingly chaotic; it houses both good and evil, both justice and injustice. The equivocal and arbitrary nature of this universe, however, grants priority to no value system. Morality and truth are no longer absolutes in Walker's world; like everything else they are relative and fluid. Walker's plays, like many twentieth century works consider the implications of living in a godless, silent universe. The incomprehensible and irrational world which envelopes his characters bears much resemblance to the absurd world of Albert Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus. Walker's response to this world, however, is different from that of Camus. Whereas Camus sees liberation in the acceptance of man's absurd condition Walker does not. Liberation, for Walker, rather, lies in the ability to transcend this absurdity through laughter. Walker's characters are for the most part defeated, yet his vision is not totally bleak. As a black humourist Walker is able to evoke both "the comic and the terrifying." Man's isolation and alienation within the larger expanse thus is simultaneously experienced as both horrifying and humourous. Black humour as a term is difficult to define. While many disagree on its nuances, most would agree that it contains within it a juxtaposition of incompatibles. Walker' plays display and exploit a very black humour - though his technique may differ slightly in each. It is the purpose of this study to examine the relationship of these techniques to the mood of black humour and to the larger philosophical vision which it supports. To be examined here are the traditions of the Theatre of the Absurd, the Grotesque and Parody. Chapter One will deal with two early plays, Ambush at Tether's End and Bagdad Saloon and their position within the canon of "absurdist" plays. Chapter Two will examine Beyond Mozambique as a piece of grotesque literature and Chapter Three will analyze Theatre of the Film Noir as an example of black humour parody These discussions will consider why black humour is essential to the play's structures and to what extent it shapes their vision.
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