Essay on The Humorist for the Common Man: James Thurber

Essay on The Humorist for the Common Man: James Thurber

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As America was changing during the early twentieth century, so was humor and few writers could easily adapt to this change with success as well as James Thurber did as a cartoonist, journalist, and an author of short stories, fables, fairytales, and plays, Thurber highlighted the problems of everyday life that were often the result of the transition in America from a masculine, frontier society, to an urban, more feminized society (Buckley, New Criterion). He shied away from major problems of the world and instead made his focus “the immemorial stupidities, cruelties and perversities of men that lie at the root of our ills” (Hasley). The success and influence that radiated from his works quickly became obvious, to the point that the characters inside them became “classics of urban mythology” (Britannica). More than any writer at the time, James Thurber was the humorist for the common man. The origins of James Thurber and the events that filled his childhood and young adulthood would prove to have a major influence on his career and later life. Thurber was born on December 8, 1894, in Columbus, Ohio to Charles and Mary “Mame” Thurber. He had two brothers, an older named William and a younger named Robert. His mother was known to be a practical joker, a trait which provided influence for some of Thurber’s future short stories (thurberhouse.org). Unfortunately for Thurber, he lost an eye after his brother accidently shot it with an arrow while playing William Tell. The loss of one of his eyes would become a tough obstacle later in life. At school, he developed an interest in drawing, but it was discouraged by his parents. Unable to draw, Thurber eventually found pleasure in writing. In fact, he published his very first story, “...


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...ales of modern times (Britannica). In addition, Thurber’s Further Fables for Our Time was a 1957 National Book Award Finalist. Thurber’s later life, despite the tragedies, had been a tremendous display of talent and proved his status as a major figure in literature. James Thurber was a rare gem in the treasure chest of authors, one who could skillfully adapt his work to the changing world around him. Aiming at the problems of everyday life, Thurber tackled many of them with great humor and wit. The talented writer and cartoonist brought forth a plethora of fine works from his early writing days at the New Yorker all the way up to the days preceding his death on November 2, 1961, a result of contracting pneumonia while recovering from a stroke. James Thurber was, from the works he produced throughout his life, a genuine source of laughter for the common man.

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