Humor in American Literature

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The Changing Face of Humor In American Literature

American society is unique, and the first of its kind. When Charles Dickens visited the United States he was astounded to see how informal American society was, as is recorded in his travelogue, American Notes For General Circulation. Besides this, it is often said by non-Americans that Americans have coarse senses of humor, or senses of humor that are low-class. The American sense of humor is said to clash with a polarized British one. The informality of American humor is utterly logical based on a theory that American society developed in response to Old-World British and European society. This theme often manifests itself in humorous American literature. Humor in American literature frequently bases itself on a sense of entitlement within the lower class, their flawed and ignorant moral senses, and a caricaturing of American exceptionalism, a theory of American superiority among other nations. American humor hasn’t changed extremely, but rather has maintained the common denominator of the humor of American exceptionalism and has parodied a feeling of individual self-worth that is seemingly intrinsic to Americans of all classes. This subject matter can be found in such works as Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Sut Lovingood: Yarns Spun by a "Nat'ral Born Durn'd Fool", by George Washington Harris, and Stephen Colbert’s I am America (and So Can You). Most of George Washington Harris’s work was done in the middle of the nineteenth century. His most famous character is the stereotypical rural farmer, Sut Lovingood. Harris’s Sut Lovingood stories were told from the character’s perspective and were defined by Sut’s heavy “Appalachian English” accent. His stories were initially published separately in multiple newspapers until Harris compiled the stories in his 1867 book Sut Lovingood: Yarns Spun by a "Nat'ral Born Durn'd Fool. The book mostly pokes fun at the ignorance and simplicity of the title...
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