Tuesday, December 2, 2014

“This is a JOURNAL, Not a Diary”

Catlin Castan
Dr. Ellis
Humor Studies
2 December 2014
“This is a JOURNAL, Not a Diary”
            While reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid I could not help but laugh out loud. Kinney introduces us to Greg Heffley, the text’s protagonist, a hilariously witty and overly dramatic middle-schooler. As early as page one of the text, Greg makes something very clear: “this is a JOURNAL, not a diary”(1). However, as we read, we can see that everything about Greg’s so-called “journal” is consistent with the textbook definition of what a diary is: “a book in which one keeps a daily record of events and experiences”(dictionary.com). Here, we notice, that even from the very beginning of the text, Greg has a tendency of telling us one thing but then of actually doing another thing (and that other thing is quite different!). These occurrences of incongruity prove to be points of comedic genius—the most comical of these points being that despite Greg’s staunch opposition to the notion of keeping a “diary”, we see by the novel’s end, that we have just read a full compilation of Greg’s recordings regarding events and experiences from his daily life.
            I found this technique of “telling us one thing but then doing another” to be reminiscent of Chaucer’s work. Namely, Chaucer often prefaces his major points of emphasis or important themes by telling his audience that he “doesn’t have time to talk and/ or write about them” but in the act of telling us that, he is actually making time and creating space for making these points within his narrative scope. Although a bit convoluted, this technique prompts the audience to read more closely into the text and observe characters and subject matter more attentively.
            I also found it interesting to note that this book was initially intended for an adult audience but then later adapted to accommodate a younger audience. While I agree that Diary of a Wimpy Kid would definitely appeal to a child audience, I tend to think that it is more appealing for the book’s initial intended target audience: adults. As I said earlier, one of the main sources of our laughter is derived from the incongruity that we observe between thoughts and actions. However, a similar incongruity exists between the comprehension level and understanding between adults and children. Many times I found myself laughing at Greg because I felt that his creativity, attitude, and (somewhat skewed) perspective on life was reminiscent of my middle- school- self.  In other words, while I was able to relate to Greg (despite the current age difference), I was also able to vicariously experience and retrospectively reflect on each moment now as an adult reader: a very different experience!  Here, we notice another one of the novel’s great achievements: its quality of relatability. We laugh as we read because we have are able to relate and connect with Kinney’s characters; We place ourselves within the text in terms of family order and relationships, school reputation, and self-esteem. We are able to draw upon our own personal experiences (and laugh) as we watch the Heffley family and friends undergo the various trials and tribulations of everyday life.

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