UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Comedy, tragicomedy, and humour in the novels of Sara Jeannette Duncan Hughes, Susan Elizabeth Simpson


In Chapter I, I identify a comic vision which is at the core of Miss Duncan's art. The comic vision is characterized by an intuitive sense of actuality and illusion, and an exuberant joy for life; its medium is social reality. The comic vision coupled with an internal point of view culminates in tragicomedy. With an external point of view Miss Duncan's empathy for her characters commonly asserts itself and turns comedy into humour. In Chapter II, I demonstrate that the intent of Miss Duncan's purely comic sketches is primarily social correction. Miss Duncan believes that ideally all human endeavours, including social behaviour, should be based upon self-knowledge and self-acceptance. When human activity lacks these virtues, artificial conventions emerge. In social life those who imitate these conventions, and those who revolt against them, constitute the unattractive bourgeoisie. In Chapter III, I have explored the role of emotions in comedy. As Miss Duncan realized, man is attracted to the suppleness of successful comic characters; our natural predilection is for the vital, and our intellect constantly seeks to impose morality on this primitive emotion. The essential disparity between tragicomedy and humour lies in the cosmological principle of the humourist which allows him to see life and death in a universal scheme. Miss Duncan is most properly a humourist who celebrates the grandeur of the human spirit that strives towards ideals, and lives amidst realities.

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