Analysis: The Joke
“If he went now he’d never come back. He’d go and she wouldn’t know, or care. He’d come back and the same thing: she wouldn’t care.” These lines from “The Joke” written by Robby Doyle clearly set the tone of the short story concerning the narrator’s frustrations about his 26-year-old relationship. The lines also hint the main themes, which are the slow decay of a marriage, and the importance of communication. These themes are confirmed throughout the text. The story is told by the male narrator, through a 3rd person limited point-of-view. There are no actual events in the story. The narrator simply sits at home in his bed, thinking the last 26 years of his life over, based on a conversation his wife is having on the phone. Robby Doyle makes use of a narrative method called “stream of consciousness”1 - there is no dialogue - only the narrator’s interior monologue. Through this technique, the narrator’s point-of-view is portrayed quite nicely, and after reading the first page it is obvious, that he is the kind of person who thinks way too much. He turns over the matters in his mind a thousand times. Should he protest against the “mercy-errands”? Is he allowed to? How would it sound if he did? What went wrong with he and his wife’s partnership? Should he tell her a joke or would it be too desperate? All these matters have probably gone through his mind every day since he started noticing that something was wrong. Something had changed. Throughout the text you get the impression that he is the perfect example of a henpecked husband. He does everything his wife wants him to do, and he doesn't do what he thinks she wouldn't approve of. In his head, he tries to justify why he acts like this. Is it because he likes doing mercy-errands? Is it because of the “sexual rewards”? He can’t figure it out. But the fact is, he does it because he is a coward. It’s not about whether people call HIM to ask for help, or they do it through his wife. It’s not about...
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