Spotted horses, is one of Faulkner’s finest examples of his special type of color. Critics that are familiar with American South West humor can be able to know that Faulkner’s commitment to concepts of humor are not dependent on liberal exaggerated oral narrations. In his short story, Faulkner has used a sewing machine agent as an oral narrator. This is done with a purpose; to come up with an informal chat and conversational tone. Comedy and humor is a very important concept in Faulkner’s stories. From the beginning to the end of this story, there is an attempt by Faulkner to understand comic. This paper argues that spotted horses not only represent a vintage specimen of humor, but a profound analysis of the role that humors plays in people’s existence.
Humor has emerged as a shaper of the story’s moral norm as a powerful weapon on behalf of the individual values; it determines character and act as an agent of redemption in seemingly futile lives. Faulkner’s style can be described as an imagery full of contrasts and antithetical structures, extended metaphors and similes that try to include everything that can be significant in descriptions of stories. In short, it is evident that humor can be found everywhere in Faulkner’s work, this happens in varying degrees. Faulkner’s humor can only be interpreted through context by which it falls, free use of humor in his work as a central or even hidden part of his narrative is inevitable.
In the classification of the function that humor plays in Faulkner’s work, the most evident influence hails from the Southern and the Southwestern tradition, this is represented by the tall tale, it has not been frequently sued by Faulkner in his work, yet it is one of the most typical aspects of his writings in general. The sophisticated relation in the story between the generic structure and the theme is shown by the fact that there are two norms; one of the norms provides humor by throwing aberrant behavior into the perspective, the other subsumes the first by making the humor normative.
The first norm concentrates on the solid and the no-nonsense realm of processes that sustain life. This type of humor has been exhibited by the characters of Mrs. Little John and Mrs. Armstid. Though it is also exemplified in the common sense side of characters, for example, Ratliff and Eck, imagery that has been utilized to represent this norm is suggestive that all is prosaic and quotidian and yet significant and eternal, for example, the “Blackened wash pot” of Little Mrs. John and the “Soap raw hands” (Faulkner, 2011, p. 292). Mrs. Armstid is presented as a fascinating combination of the squalid and transcendental; the story describes her as a figure in a “shapeless gray garment” and resembling “a gray and blasted tree trunk” (Faulkner, 2011, p. 294). Mrs. Armstid and Little Mrs. John are the type of people who give existence to the story anchorage and its endurance.
One of the key ingredients in the Old Southwest humor is incongruity and juxtapositions of contrasting elements. For example, the narrator in the story says this about the Texan Ponies, “They were colored as parrots and, they were quiet as doves, and ere one of them would kill you as quick as a rattlesnake” (Faulkner, 2011, p. 295). In the first two statements, the horses are represented as being lovely and quiet; however, this image contrasts with the other statement that contends that the horses would kill a person as quickly as a rattlesnake. The use of the word ponies is immensely incongruous; this is because ponies are known to be quiet and tame animals opposite of the wild beast that the narrator describes in the story.
Another major element of the Southwestern humor is the utilization of exaggeration (Chiaro, 2012). Faulkner’s uses exaggeration to describe the horses that have wild behaviors. For example, the horses are first described when the sewing machine narrator had an unexpected run with them. The observations by the narrator as unbelievable as they could be enhance the humor of the story. The horses present imagery of light play and insubstantiality that serves to violate the norm. Faulkner’s associates them to the circus and the supernatural beings. This multiplicity is suggestive of capacity for change, and it is this process that underlies the humor that is used in the story (Hamblin & Peek, 2013). Pretension of this insubstantial realm of flux and the exposure of the pretension creates the basic machinery of comic irony in the story.
The reference of the horses as circus performers summons particular images of the humorous pretense, the ponies that are dressed in the garish human clothes, for example, and the pink frilly dresses that are suggestive of cross-dressing (Fairbairn, 2006). Comedy is as a result of a ridiculous failed change, for example, that of clowns who try to be normal workmen with the ability to carry water, climb ladders and catch the horses. Humor is increased when the act departs from the magic play circle of the attempt and tries to engage with the rough reality of the Frenchman’s Band (Skei, 2014).
The climax of the confrontations between solid and unreal is the high point of the story humor. The point takes place when gaudy, one of the horses enters the everyday reality. Gaudy illusions and light play are brought together in the Kaleidoscope image that is utilized by Faulkner to contrast the direct image of Mrs. Littlejohn (Faulkner, 2011). A child’s toy that is made up of a cylinder and the bits of colored glass that create beautiful but meaningless patterns is an excellent symbol for the flamboyant superficiality that is represented by the horses. At the slightest twisting of the cylinder, the produced metamorphosis completes the picture of an easy concept, which can counterfeit solidity. The humorous discrepancy is between the bright toy and the drab tool (Faulkner, 2011).
From reader’s viewpoints, the concrete and serious Mrs. Little John renders the forces of being ridiculous; she therefore becomes laughable and can be easily dismissed. The humor demolition is brought by the conflict of norm and the aberrations and not from the consciousness of Mrs. Littlejohn that the concept of humor can be used as defense and offense. Some other characters in the play have this consciousness and it creates a very important aspect of their respective nature (Faulkner, 2011). It is possible to form some ethical judgments concerning all these characters as per the norms of their humor and how they utilize the concept of humor to achieve their ends, and how they react to the humor of the other people (Faulkner, 2011).
The Texan humor is a sort of anti humor, this is because in his own economic interest he breaks down the defenses of the norm and peddle the spotted illusions. He can be described as a formidable man, with a face that is capable of changing any moment. He utilizes wit to take the force out of the wit. Therefore, he justifies the horse’s spirit by insisting that “he is not selling crow bait” (Faulkner, 2011). His technique is amplified when the bid of four brings no laughter, the Texan laugh harshly, using his lower face, his assertion is completed by the use of humorous words; “ Fifty cents for the dried mud often them…” (Faulkner, 2011)
The humor exhibited by Lump Snopes is representative of another kind of assault on the norm. It takes the form of espousing an antithetical norm. The defeat of justice seems funny to lump. At the end of the story he assumes a very serious role in the defeat; in the earlier episode he is content to find amusement in the chicanery of his master (Skei, 2014). After Flem presents Mrs. Armstid with five cents worth of candy, Faulkner describes her as being embodying a concept that is best in the form of solidity, Lump’s reaction follows immediately “by God he said, you can’t beat him”. The Juxtaposition of the eternal feminine reveals significant sickness of humor that has lost sight of fairness and dignity that assist people to define humanity (Faulkner, 2011).
Summing up the characterizations of Faulkner, it can be said that Ratliff together with his observers laugh in the service of the norm, the Texan and the lump laugh for the purpose of subverting the norm. Mrs. Littlejohn and Mrs. Armstid and Flem do not laugh, they are not aware of the compromise and the hypocrisy that creates laughter, Humors encourages a force that creates moderation and flexibility that are important if the concept of performing a duty is not to become oppressive and tyrannical as oppressing others. The concept of humor enriches survival.
Chiaro, D. (2012). Translation, Humor and Literature: 1 (Continuum Advances in Translation). New York: Continuum.
Fairbairn, G. J. (2006). Contemplating Suicide: The Language of Self Harm. London: Routledge.
Faulkner, W. (2011). Three Famous Short Novels: Spotted Horses, Old Man, The Bear (Vintage International). New York: Vintage International.
Hamblin, R., & Peek, C. (2013). A William Faulkner Encyclopedia. New York: Greenwood Publishers.
Skei, H. (2014). The Humor of William Faulkner. American Studies in Scandinavia, 83-89.