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The Breaking up of the Winships — James Thurber

05 Aug
Donald Duck, photograph by Ross Hawkes

Donald Duck, photograph by Ross Hawkes

Story Title: The Breaking up of the Winships

Originally published:   1945

Collected In:  Thurber Carnival

Brief Story Description: Who is better, Greta Garbo or Donald Duck? This is the question that unfortunately dashes apart the marriage of Gordon and Marcia. What started as a throw away comment has had the couple draw battle lines between them. Gordon, initially the model of detachment, who was (at one stage) opposed to all exaggeration, is ready to go blue in the face, espousing Donald Duck’s contribution to society. Meanwhile, Marcia hates anyone who would worship a cartoon character and anyone who would even give time to her husband’s argument. In this way (and with the help of some cocktails and whisky and sodas) a once healthy marriage is torn irreparably in twain.

Why it works humour wise: While the premise is slightly tweaked, everyone has been in, or knows of a situation like this: when being right is more important than anything else. Thurber is playing with human nature, and is exposing our defects. By pushing the outcome to an extreme, one of slammed cab doors, and in the end, Gordon moving out, Thurber can detail the illogic and insantity buried beneath the surface in all of us.

Further Comments: A clever story, one that has a ring of truth in it. People are happy to push a short term agenda over a long term one, even if it will wind up being harmful in the end. All we ever need to write about is contained within human relationships. Without people holding different views, and having different opinions, there would be no conflict, and thus no means to write narrative. Lucky for us, even the most balanced individuals can be nonsensical and illogical at times.

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Posted by on August 5, 2011 in Humour

 

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