Mark Twain and James Thurber use conflict and figurative language to develop and enhance their humorous writing. Although conflict can be humorous in itself, the way conflict is presented and the author’s tone used with the conflict can greatly increase the humorous effect. Mark Twain’s short story, “A Toast to the Oldest Inhabitant: The Weather of New England,” pokes fun at the uncertainty of New England weather, while Thurber’s short story, “The Dog That Bit People,” explores the adventures of a unique, matchless dog. Both authors have a very relaxed, casual, and sometimes satirical tone. The tone expressed by Twain and Thurber leads to very humorous moods in these two short stories.Conflict, having the ability to control the entirety of a story, is an integral part of Twain and Thurber’s humorous writings. One internal conflict in Twain’s short story is Twain’s feelings and attitude toward the weather. Adding to the story’s humor, Twain writes, “Month after month I lay up my hate and grudge against the New England weather” (524). This internal struggle is the basis of the humor in the short story; if Twain did not have an aggravated approach towards the weather, the story’s humor would have been greatly lacking. The majority of the conflicts in Thurber’s story are external and arise from Muggs, Thurber’s family dog. “Once when [Roy] came downstairs and found that Muggs had moodily chewed up the morning paper he hit him in the face with a grapefruit and then jumped up on the dining room table, scattering dishes and silverware and spilling the coffee” (Thurber 527). Being relatable to all people, this conflict greatly adds to the short story’s humor.
The authors’ use of hyperbole, or extreme exaggeration, also gre…
… “burly,” “choleric,” “oblivious,” and “unusual sight” are humorous because they explain, in a very detailed, uncommon way, Muggs’s attributes (Thurber 525-529).
The way in which humor is presented in a short story is often the most memorable part, engaging the reader deeply into the heart of the story. The humor in Twain and Thurber’s short stories is rooted in the simple conflicts, exaggerated in the hyperboles, sarcastically downplayed in the understatements, and enhanced with the authors’ diction. Both authors used common subjects, weather and dogs, to make their humorous short stories appeal to many readers. Humor, when used in proper proportion, has the ability to enhance a story and to entertain readers. Twain and Thurber’s stories are entertaining to read because of perfect balances between fantasy and reality, truth and falsehood, and humor and tragedy.