Существует множество теорий, от античных до современных, цель которых – определить сущность смешного . Так, Т. Гоббс видел в смехе «внезапное возвышение» смеющегося и принижение осмеиваемого, З.Фрейд – момент освобождения от социальных норм и т.д. Однако знакомство со всем разнообразием теорий не поможет узнать наличие юмористического эффекта в произведении. Пожалуй, единственный способ – чувство юмора: если, читая, вы смеетесь, значит, произведение юмористическое.
Следует также различать понятия «юмор» и «сатира». Сатирическое произведение осуждает. Цель юмористического – дать возможность читателю посмеяться в свое удовольствие.
С технической точки зрения можно обратить внимание на присутствие в юмористическом произведении некоторых несоответствий, странных ситуаций, нестыковок, противоречий ожидаемому, что, однако, не создает угрозы для участников этих ситуаций (примерно так определял комическое Аристотель).
В следующем рассказе подобных нестыковок много. Самая крупная – несоответствие между «взрослым» смыслом рассказа дяди Силаса и тем, как понимает его смысл маленький племянник. Кроме того, текст пестрит и небольшими комическими фразами («I was only a kid. About thirty»), которые легко можно выписать и привести в качестве примера авторского юмора при разборе текста.
Finger wet, finger dryby H.E. Bates
My Uncle Silas was a man who could eat anything. He could eat stewed nails. He had lived on them, once, for nearly a week. He told me so.
I was a boy then. At that time we used to drive over to see him, in summer, about one Sunday a month arriving in time for dinner, tethering the white horse about noon in the shade of the big tree overhanging the lane outside. It was always what were we going to eat and what were we going to get with? At dinner, once, we had pheasant, which was something, very special, and I asked him if he had shot it. "No,” he said, "it just fell down the chimney." Another time we had a goose and I asked him if that fell down the chimney. "No," he said, "the goose went to sleep in the wellbucket and I went to draw some water one night and let it down unbeknownst and it got drowned."
"Couldn't it swim?" I said.
"Oh! It was asleep. Never woke. It just went a belly-flopper and was done for."
Another time we had venison. I knew what that was. "A deer," I said; "Did that fall down the well?"
"No," he said. "I shot it. With a bow and arrow. One of these days I'll show you." And he did. I badgered and bothered him until, one summer Sunday afternoon, he made an ash-bow standing as high as himself and cut arrows out of flower-canes. "You don't believe me, do you?" he said. "Well, I'll show you." He tipped the arrows with old shoe-awls and bits of filed wire and anything handy. "Course they ain't no venisons about'," he said. "But I'll show you." Then we went into the field beyond the house and Silas stalked an old cow. Finally he stood about ten yards away from her and shot her in the backside. The cow leapt up about ten feet in the air and tore about the field. "That's how I done the venison," Silas said. "Only it was a bigger bow and a bigger arrow and I hit it a bit harder."
"Now you know when Silas tells y' anything it's right, don't you?"
"Yes," I said.
"You know Silas don't tell lies, don't you?" he said. "You know Silas don't stuff you with any old tale?"
'"Yes," I said. "I know now."
It must have been some time after this that he told me the story of the nails. I forget how it came up. Perhaps it was duck eggs; it may have been the sow. He said: "You kids... you don't know what it is to go without grub. Look at me. I can eat anything. Had to. Look at that time I lived on stewed nails for a week."
I just stared.
"That's one for you, ain't it? That makes your eyes pop, don’t it? Stewed nails. For a week. And
"Didn't they... weren't you bad?" I said.
"Oh! They was just old nails. I had pepper and salt on 'em, too."
I asked him how it happened, and when. "Oh, about fifty years ago. I was only a kid. About thirty." He stopped, eyed me seriously, squinted. "You ain't goin' tell nobody about this if 1 tell you?"
"No. Oh, no!"
"Thass right. There's a policeman at the bottom o' this. I don't want to get into trouble. You cork it in."
"Sure? You promise?"
"Finger wet, finger dry-," I said.
"Thass right. And cut mythroat if I tell a lie. This what I'm telling y' istrue."
He took a quick look round, spoke lower, dropped an eyelid at me, and said: "I'd gone up to Sam Tilley's to take the old sow to the boar. Sam was a policeman. His wife was a young gal about twenty. She was fiery an' all. Nice gal. Sometimes Sam was on nights and sometimes he was on days. That time he was on days. Well, it was a hot day and after the boar had finished she said: ‘If you're tired, come in and sit down a bit.' So I went in and she said she was tired too. ‘Don't wear a chair out,' I said. 'Sit on my knee.' So she did. She was as light as a chicken, lovely." He paused, recollecting, going off into a momentary trance. "And then... oh! I know. We started playing with her duck eggs."
"What duck eggs?"
"Oh! She kept ducks. Didn't I say that? She had some lovely ducks. And she used to let me have eggs sometimes. I forgot how it was, but we started fooling about with her duck eggs. She kept hiding 'em and I had to find 'em ... you know."
"I know," I said. "Like hide the thimble'.
"Thass it. Like hide the thimble. Only these was duck eggs."
"Where'd she hide 'em?" I said.
"Oh! In ... where what? Oh! All over the show. Upstairs, downstairs. Everywhere. In the oven. In bed. Oh, she was a Tartar. She was hot."
"With running about so much?"
"Ah, thass it! With runnin' about so much. And then..?" He looked hard at me, without a twinkle. "You goin' to cork this in? Keep it a secret all right?"
I promised faithfully to cork it in, and he went on.
"Well, then he turned up. Sam. All of a sudden she looks out of the window and there he is coming up the garden path. By God, that give me a turn."
"What did you do?" I said.
"Oh! I never done anything. I couldn't. I was scared stiff. It was her who done it. 'Here, quick,' she says, 'in the cellar.' And there I was. And there I stopped.”
"How long for?" I said.
"For a week!"
"A week! Why didn't she let you out?"
"She forgot! Forgot all about me. Didn't I tell you how forgetful she was? Oh, she was shocking! Sometimes I'd go up for a dozen duck eggs and she'd bring the boar out and then I'd go for apples and she'd bring me duck eggs. You see?"
"Yes," I said. "I see. But why did she lock you in at all? You were all right. You weren't doing anything.
"Here," he said. "You go up to the house and in the corner cupboard you'll see a bottle marked liniment. You bring it. I want to rub my back. It gives me what 'ho! every time I stir."
So I went to fetch .the bottle and after that, for some reason, perhaps because he kept drinking the liniment instead of rubbing his back with it, the tale warmed up. He began to tell me how he lay in the cellar night and day, in complete darkness, not daring lo shout out and wondering what would happen to him. But what I wanted to know most was how he had lived — what he had had to eat.
"Eat?" he -said. "I never had a mossel* Not a mossel. All I'd got was a mite o' pepper and salt screwed up in a mite o' pepper in my westcit** pocket."
"You must have got down to skin and bone," I said.
"Skin and bone ... you're right," he said. "Thass about all I was. And shouldn't have been that if it hadn't been for the nails."
He went on to tell me, then, how after the third or fourth day, after he had searched every inch of the cellar, floor and ceiling, on his hands and knees, he got so desperate that he began to prize out the nails of the floor boards and how after that there was nothing for it but to eat them and how he made a fire of his pocket linings and splinters of floor board and anything handy and lit it with the only match he had and how he collected water off the damp walls in a tobacco tin and how at last he put the nails in and stewed them.
"Stewed 'em," he said. "All one night and all'one day. And then ate'em. I had to. It was either that or snuff it."
I sat silent thinking it over.
"Course it's the iron what done it," he said. "Iron's good for you. Ain't it?"
I still sat silent. It was a fine story, but somehow it seemed, as I sat there in the hot shade of the elders, almost too good. I couldn't swallow it. I believed all about the duck eggs and the woman and the cellar and everything — all except the nails. Stewed nails! I kept turning it over in my mind and wondering.
And he must have seen my unbelief. Because suddenly he said:
You don't believe me now," he said. "Do you? You think I'm stuffin' you?"
He looked at me long and hard, with a gaze from which the habitual devilry had been driven out by a marvelous innocence. "Look at that then."
He seemed suddenly to have had an inspiration. He opened his mouth, baring his teeth. They were old and broken and stained by the yellow and brown of decay.
"See 'em," he said. "That's rust. Nail rust. It got into my teeth." He spoke with impressive reverence. "It got into my teeth eating them nails and I never been able to get it out again."
He gave a sigh, as though burdened with the telling of too much truth.
“That’s where women land you,” he said.
*mossel - morsel (a very little bit of something)
**westcit - waistcoat
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