Carolina Day School

Honors Papers 2021-22

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Henry 1 Greyson Henry Mrs. White Wit Lit - Humor in Literature 22 February 2021 The Straight Men of Big Trouble The world of Dave Barry's Big Trouble is one of absurdity and chaos. Its main backdrop, the anarchic streets of Miami, attracts outlaws the country over, creating a diverse, quirky cast of characters. Among these characters, however, some are undoubtedly nuttier than others. In order to make his world of ungovernable madness seem believable, Barry implements one of the most tried-and-true tropes of comedy: the straight man. Dave Barry's repetition of the straight man trope highlights the characters' humorous antics while providing a base of realism. The straight-man trope is generally considered to have originated in the works of infamous 20th century comedic duo Abbott and Costello. In their routines, Costello often played a well-meaning-but-idiotic oaf while Abbott played the smarter, wittier, more serious foil. This then-original formula brought the two massive success, and, more importantly to this essay, cemented the trope of the straight man into the annals of comedy as an effective tool of humor that would be imitated by comics to this day. Dave Barry seems particularly fond of this trope, as he implements it several times in Big Trouble. One of the most obvious "Abbotts" of the story is Anna Herk; her individual character plights keeps the story grounded and the stakes high while other characters pick up her comedic slack. Often, Anna is placed in situations where those around her have become immersed in an extraneous, wacky situation, and it is her narrative task to signal to the audience that this situation, despite its absurdity, is significant and serious. One example of this is early on in the novel when the Herk household is besieged by Jenny's high

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