Monday, April 30, 2012

Difficulties of being English

Over the past few months I've been reading a lot of UK born writers and I've noticed an odd trend. This may be common sense or a regular on going joke of sorts that I hadn't previously been made aware. Apparently there was a time, not too long ago, where middle class Englsh men were thought to be fake, humorless puppets.

Off the top of my head I only came up with three writers that offered examples but there are certainly more whose work didn't stick with me as strongly as those I'm about to mention. I wouldn't say these three writers were of the same generation, nor do they possess similar styles (indeed it is the variety of their backgrounds that gave credence to the above assertion; which really isn't my assertion...) but however mockingly they all make fun of themselves, and the culture surrounding middle aged English men around the time of the 1940's through 1970's

In The Screwtape Letters C.S. Lewis, in a very heavy tongue-in-cheek way as the voice of a demon wrote "The real use of Jokes or Humour is in quite a different direction, and it is specially promishing among the English who take their 'sense of humour' so seriously that a deficiency in this sense is almost the only deficiency at which they feel shame." 

John Fowles wrote many passages on the oddities of the English behavior in Daniel Martin: "I did want to be angry with her then, I'd very much have liked to be an American Jewish or a working-class father, anything other than feeling I caught that dreadful English middle-class trap of never showing or saying what you really feel."

The most recently published book that continues this trend of showing humorless expression impaired English men was The sense of the Ending by Julian Barnes. “I hate the way the English have of not being serious about being serious, I really hate it,” Adrian declared.

Does this trend still persist? Is being an English man really so bad?

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