Department of English and Cultural Studies
Panjab University, Chandigarh
Humour is often used as an important means of engendering positive emotions, preserving a sense of mastery, hope and self- respect in individuals, thereby enabling them to survive in seemingly hopeless circumstances. Studies of survivors of extreme adversity, such as the brutal conditions of concentration camps and war, indicate that a non-serious, ludicrous, or facetious attitude towards the oppressors as well as the hardships endured is often an important means of bonding and maintaining solidarity among individuals. The aim of the present paper is to analyze the use of humour in Roberto Benigni’s film Life is Beautiful and Neil Simon’s play Biloxi Blues related to anti-Semitism, i.e., hatred against Jews. As methodology for the paper, Sigmund Freud’s views on jokes and Jewish humour will be briefly analyzed. If literature is about human thought then Freud’s theories about unconscious and its relation to jokes occupy an importance place in literary analyses. Freud believes that Jewish jokes point to the ability of the Jewish people to engage in a thorough self-criticism. The paper will ponder over questions such as: Has anti-Semitism ended? Or is it still haunting us in the form of world terrorism. Although the paper will specifically focus on the use of humour in the above mentioned texts, the study is also relevant in the present Indian context, for it would be fruitful to scrutinize the role of humour, not only in restoring world peace, but also in a democratic Indian set up frequently challenged by debates on intolerance.
Key Words: Humour, Intolerance, Anti-Semitism, World Peace, Self-respect, Positive Emotions, Sigmund Freud, Democracy