Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Humour and Pathos in Charles Lamb's essays

Charles Lamb is a great artist in showing humour and pathos in a single row. He had as keen a perception of the funny side of life as he had of the tragic. The funny side and the sense of humour never desert him. And we find a curious mingling of there two (humour and pathos) ingredients in his works. Laughter is followed by tears of sympathy in many of his essays. Moreover, humour may be described as an extreme sensitiveness to the true proportion of things and pathos that appeals to our feelings of compassion and evokes sympathy. In some essays, we have Pathos and Humour alternating each other, in others we have the two elements coexisting in the same passion that we see pathos and humour as facts of the same thing.

In the essays "South Sea House", we see humour and pathos existing side by side. Here we find the touch of humour and pathos at the same time. Here we have a melancholy note in his wistful description of the decaying building. We, the readers, feel sorry for its decadence. But the clerks of this company are masterpieces in comic characterization, where the groups of the clerks are described as "a sort of Noah's Ark" and "odd fishes". We laugh at John Tipp for making horrible sound while singing. Here Lamb says that John Tipp sang certainly, but "with other notes than to the Orphean lyre." What can e more effective way of saying that he did not sing well. The characterization of each clerk cannot fail to amuse but even while we laugh at the aristocratic pretensions of Thomas Tame. Lamb says, "He had the air and stoop of a nobleman." By stoop the author means "that gentle bending of the body forwards, which, in great men, must be supposed to be the effect of an habitual codescending attention to the applications of their inferiors." Amidst all the humour, one feels sorry for he pathetic situation of Thomas Tame who had developed an aristocratic air, not, we are told, to insult others, but to save himself from the insult of others. He was a poor man whose shallow intellect was cheered by the thought of aristocratic connections. The author says that Thomas Tame's intellect was "of the shallowest order" and that " A sucking babe might have posed him."

Similarly, in the essay "Christ's Hospital Five and Thirty Years Ago" we find the touch of humour and pathos at the same time. We feel sympathetic towards the boy who got inadequate and ill-cooked food in Christ's hospital. Although Lamb describes it humorously, our heart shakes when Lamb says, "There was love for the bringer; shame for the thing brought, and the manner of its bringing; sympathy for those who were too many to share in it; and, at top of all, hunger (eldest, strongest of the passion !) predominant, breaking down the sunny fences of shame, and awkwardness, and a troubling over-consciousness."

Even, we feel sorry for the psychology of the child who speaks of the home seekness. Here Lamb says in the guise of Coleridge, "I was a poor friendless boy." Again he says, " O the cruelty of separating a poor lad from his early homestead ! The yearning which I used to have towards it in those unfledged years ! How, in my dreams, would my native town (far in the west) come back, with its church, and trees, and faces!" However, humour is not far off - the account of Hodges' pet ass, which he kept in the dormitory, is funny. It is hilarious to read about how the ass betrayed itself and its patron by braying loudly.

There was also fun and games which relieved the darkness and gloom because of the comic characterization of these two masters. The Upper Master and the Lower Master presented a remarkable contrast. Field, The Lower Master, was a mild and lenient man who did not enforce discipline. Hue Upper Master Boyer, was very strict and heavy handed with his beatings and students feared him. He had two wigs which gave a clue to the mood he was in for the day. One wig denoted that he was in a good mood and would not beat anyone that day; the other denoted a bad mood and that day the boys would be in for a terrible time.

Similarly, the comments that he makes in "A Bachelor's Complaint of the Behaviour of Married People" are humorous as well as pathetic. Here the essayist tries to find out a number of weaknesses in married people in a humorous way and therefore finds much consolation in this state of bachelorhood.

He tells about some of the bitter experiences and expresses his agony for the behaviour of the married people whom he thinks pretend lovers. Here he says, " What oftenest offends of at the houses of married persons where I visit, is an error of quite a description:- it is that they are too loving". He thinks that the married people generally show that they are "too loving" and they show these things to the unmarried people "so shamelessly". This type of behaviour of the married people is painful to him.

This kind of display is an insult to a bachelor. He says that wife has the tendency to show that she is the happiest creature in the world. He amused us by telling of the young married lady who could not believe that a bachelor could know anything like the best-mode of breeding oysters. The tricks adopted by the wives to cut of the relation between their husband and the bachelors also amuse us. The most amusing event in this essay is Lamb's attitudes towards children. He says that children are not rare thing, they are common. So, couple should not be proud of them. He says,

"If they were young phoenix indeed that were born but one in a year there might be a pretext. But which they are so common..."

There is another expression bears a find humour as well are pathos, that the wife who kept him waiting for dinner two or three hours beyond the usual time and she passed on a more savoury dish to her husband, recommending a less savoury one to Lamb.

In the concluding part it can be said that in Charles Lamb's essays humour and pathos are inseparable and for these things his essays become rich and stylistic.


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Anonymous said...

Nice work. But has got many mistake. Anyway you did very well

adamaero said...

You misunderstood the message of Lamb's essay. He describes the smugness of married people, and how their children are often repulsive.

Anonymous said...

Not too good... Better if u quote some lines from the superannuated man... Try to mention some critical comments in the concluding part... The analysis can also be elaborated a little bit.

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