This week: Appealing to a Feeling or No Cow to SellEdited by: Thankful Sonali Done 30 DBC!
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Listening to 'Anne of Green Gables' and its various sequels got me thinking. Why do we laugh at Anne's foibles? Because we empathize!
Have you ever sold your neighbor's cow, thinking it was your cow?
Chances are – you haven't.
Then why does the episode at the beginning of 'Anne of Avonlea' strike such a chord?
What happens, in brief, is this:
Anne's new neighbor, a dour man, threatens her that if her cow goes into his field one more time, he won't answer for what he does to it.
Anne therefore locks her cow safely in the milk shed.
Returning home one day, she finds a cow in her neighbor's field, grazing away.
Causing great damage to her pretty dress and her dignity, she chases the cow round the field, catches it and sells it.
On going to the milk shed, she finds her cow there. She has sold her neighbor's cow.
(A very rough summary of Chapter #1 of Anne of Avonlea by LM Montgomery – full audio book linked below.)
Well, what is it that the reader, even a reader in a city today, empathizes with here? The setting and the situation are probably alien. I guess it's the emotions.
One can totally understand Anne's fear of the neighbor, her exasperation on seeing a cow in his field, her desperation to solve the problem, and even her heedlessness in not checking the milk shed before selling a cow. This brings a smile and a chuckle.
Take the instance in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer when Aunt Polly wants to give Tom a 'licking' and Tom says 'look behind you, Aunt' and escapes before she can strike him. Well, striking a child physically is a no-no these days. The situation would not be relatable in that sense. What is relatable is the emotion of the aunt upon being tricked by her wayward nephew whom she loves dearly, and his utter faith that her love for him will win over the momentary need to discipline him. That's what makes us chuckle.
For me, one of the funniest bits in the Harry Potter books is when the Weasleys try to travel by Floo Powder through fire-places to pick Harry up. They get stuck because the fire-place at Harry's uncle's house is boarded up. So, one by one, Arthur, Fred and George are stuck there when Ron arrives and gets stuck too. He asks the redundant question: "Has something gone wrong?"
And the twins reply: "No, this is just where we wanted to end up."
"Yeah, we're having the time of our lives here."
The situation isn't something any of us have been in, but the sarcasm between the siblings is entirely relatable.
What makes timeless comedy? Not whether you had a cow to sell, but whether you had an emotion to relate to.
Thanks for listening!
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My all-time favorite Dan Brown commentary is this article written by Michael Deacon, which I believe he updates for every new title Dan Brown releases.
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