A comprehensive study of the non-dramatic work of Sue Townsend. (Jurgen Willems)


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                   Everyone who reads Townsend's fiction will agree that it is full of humour. But if one tries to prove that cer-tain passages, sentences or words are indeed comic some problems may arise. One can of course always check whether something is funny by presenting it to someone and watching whether he is laughing or at least smiling but when one really tries to explain humour in an academically acceptable way the procedure is much more complex. Humour can be more easily felt, experienced than explained. Even the writer herself can hardly explain the phenomenon:

"...how it works - it's a mystery, isn't it, what makes people laugh? It's so many things combined. I think it's the unexpected; that almost forces an automatic response of laughter. It's like a shock; people gasp if you come up from behind and touch them on the shoulder. In the same way, when you present them with an ordinary sentence which then at the very end is twisted around, it's the automatic reaction to laugh."[177]

Townsend's explanation is very close to the explanation of humour given by experts and by one of the greatest thinkers of the past. This will be shown in the following paragraph.

                   Before we turn to the discussion of the humour in Townsend's fiction it is necessary to create a frame of reference. As pointed out at the beginning of this chapter this is not an easy task. The term humour comprises a large set of varieties, and this obviously considerably complicates the construction of an overall definition. Nevertheless, experts in the matter have succeeded in establishing a satisfactory explanatory model which applies to all the different sorts of humour. Paul Liekens states that humour emerges when two programmes are mixed.

"...de gemene deler van alle humor is dat je op een bepaalde golflengte zit en dat iemand er onverwacht een andere golflengte doorheen mixt."[178]

In his study Humour and Humanity Stephen Leacock begins with a qualification of humour that runs as follows:

"...the kindly contemplation of the incongruities of life and the artistic expression thereof".

Next he compares his definition with a famous dictum of Immanuel Kant's, the great thinker alluded to above. Kant characterizes "the ludicrous" as:

"...an affection arising from the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing."[179]

This last definition is strikingly similar to Robert Nelson Louis indication of the essence of humour: a "frustrated expectation".[180]

                   The essential elements of all these definitions of humour are the words 'incongruity' and 'unexpected'. So Townsend's explanation of the phenomenon (which included the word 'unexpected') was not as amateurist as it seemed at first sight. This proves that the author has insight in humour. But an understanding of how comedy really works does nog suffice to possess a sense of humour. As Judith King points out in The Book of British Humour some people have it while other people lack it.[181] Still, Townsend definitely belongs to the first group. This will be sufficiently proved in the examination of her humour.

                   Humour was mentioned as the main reason for Townsend's success as a novelist. Of course everyone will agree that what is amusing is usually very much appreciated. But when asked to explain why comedy is so popular most people will fail to give a reply. Again we have to consult the specialists in the field. Michael Mulkay states that "humour helps us to recuperate from the tensions of the serious world" or in Martha Wolfenstein's words "the oppressive difficulties of life".[182] Thus laughing and smiling bring a temporary elation. In other words humour is a "safeguard against undue tensions and all the severities of unwise discipline".[183] By reading humorous literature people temporarily forget their problems. It gives them "healthful release" and "respite from intensity in living and learning".[184] The feeling of well-being resulting from this recuperation, release or respite (whatever you like to call it) is what makes comic literature so attractive. According to Laux humour is not only enjoyable but even necessary:

"We need laughter in our lives as surely as plants need sunshine.[185]

                   Now that a frame of reference has been set up and the reason why humour is such a success has been given we can turn to an examination of the humour in Townsend's non-dramatic work. By giving several examples I will try to illustrate the variety in Townsend's comedy. For the theoretical background concerning most of the sources of humour incorporated in the writer's work I will refer to Stephen Leacock's Humour and Humanity since this work contains an enumeration and explanation of the different sorts of humour.

                   First I will deal with Townsend's verbal humour. The term refers to that kind of humour that results from a special use of words. This includes word repetition, alliteration, misunderstanding of meaning, punning, exaggeration, bad spelling and bad grammar.[186] Almost all of these aspects causing humour are used by Townsend. Repetition that causes a comic effect is found at the beginning of The Secret Diary when Adrian discovers that Pandora, whom he has fallen in love with, is going out with his best friend Nigel. He is so upset that he repetitively enters exclamations of despair in his diary:

"6 p.m. Pandora! My lost love!...

8 p.m. Pandora! Pandora! Pandora!

10 p.m. Why? Why? Why?"[187]

The mere repetition of his exclamations is funny. When three days later Adrian again exclaims "Pandora! Why?" the comic effect is even bigger since there the exclamation suddenly pops up at the end of his entry. The fact that it is totally unexpected makes it so funny.

                   Alliterations are also found in Adrian's diaries. When the teenager starts his first work of "romantic fiction" under the pseudonym Adrienne Storme the reader is presented with a hilarious example of ridiculous alliteration.

"Jason brooded, blindly blinking back big blurry tears ...".[188]

The humour here finds its origin in parody rather than only in alliteration but the exaggerated alliteration does contribute to the amusing effect.[189] One may object that it is not the alliteration that causes fun but only the exaggeration (next to the parody of course). Yet, this objection is rebutted by Leacock's explanation.

"... there is an evident incongruity of language, a piece of 'fun with words'."[190]

The exaggeration clearly also contributes to the overall comedy of the sentence. It is, after all, another aspect of verbal humour.

                   Misunderstanding words, another source of comedy, occurs quite frequently in the Mole books. As a result of his ignorance Adrian often misunderstands certain words or he uses them in the wrong sense. In the beginning of The Growing Pains the pimply youth writes a letter to agony aunt Clara in which he complains about the fact that his love (Pandora) does not want to go to bed with hem even though he would definitely wear a "protective dildo".[191] Adrian of course means a protective condom but as a result of his lack of information he uses the word for artificial penis which is of course very funny. It is the unexpectedness of the word's appearance that creates the humour. A misunderstanding of words occurs in the very first entry of Margaret Hilda Roberts's diary. Margaret, who is just as ignorant as Adrian, reports that her father said

"The socialists are out to ruin the small shopkeeper, Margaret."

and she immediately replied

"But Father [sic], you'll be all right, you are over six feet tall."[192]

No one expects a misunderstanding here and this is why it produces such a funny effect.

                   This last 'joke' is based on the double meaning of the adjective small. Hence the humour could be considered to be the result of a pun rather than a misunderstanding. Both devices of humour can be said to lie at the basis of this 'joke'. Anyhow, this brings us to one of the most used devices of humour in Townsend's work the pun. Leacock defines this phenomenon as:

"the use of a word or phrase which has two meanings which the context brings into a glaring incongruity".[193]

According to this definition the above example is a clear pun. Another example of a pun, taken from Rebuilding Coventry, is based on the double meaning of a phrase. At the end of one of their international telephone conversations Sidney wants to boost his sister's courage and tells her to "keep her pecker up". This is a fixed expression that means so much as 'Cheer up!'. When Coventry gratefully replies "Yes and yours" Sidney immediately returns "Mine is always up". This last reply is comic since it plays on the American obscene meaning of the word pecker: the male genital organ.[194]

                   Bad or shaky spelling is once used by Townsend as a means of humour. At the end of a poem on Norway Adrian writes:

"Norway! My soul resides in your watery fiords fyords fiiords [sic]


Because he does not know how to spell the word 'fjord' correctly Adrian replaces it by the word inlets. The fact that his attempts at writing the word correctly are still visible is very humorous. On the one hand crossed out words are improbable to occur in a poem one submits to the BBC and on the other hand Adrian's uncertainty about the correct spelling of the words is incompatible with his claim to be an intellectual. This incongruity also adds an additional tinge of humour to the misunderstandings and wrong use of words.

                   Townsend's choice of words and register lies at the basis of several funny sentences or paragraphs. The way Adrian says certain things makes his statements very funny. When for instance, the teenager refers to old people with the words 'crumblies' or 'wrinklies' the effect is very ludicrous.[196]Townsend's choice of register at times also causes the reader to laugh. She combines very informal and formal register in Adrian's scirbblings so that humour springs from the contrast between the two. On the one hand the reader is confronted with slangy expressions such as "dead stupid", "just my luck", "worse luck" while on the other hand, sometimes even in the same entry, Adrian uses very formal expressions like for instance "she has refused to consummate our relationship".[197] In the context of an informal diary the reader does not expect such a phrase. The contrast in register in The Queen and I is of course also very humorous. The lofty Received Pronunciation of the royals contrasts sharply with the very down-to-earth dialect of their proletarian neighbours.

                   The use of dialect is in itself also a source of comedy. There are two reasons for the comic effect of dialect in writing. Firstly

"... dialect, till it loses its force by custom, has a droll sound to an unaccustomed ear."[198]

And secondly dialect, when represented in writing, is funny even to the accustomed ear since one is not used to seeing it on paper. When one of the characters in The Queen and I says

"Now I know I ain't an angel. Fact is, I'm a tea leaf, no sense in 'idin it. And 'til recent I've kept you all in food and clothes and shoes, ain't I".[199]

the reader is likely to smile. Similarly the written representation of polished Received Pronunciation also causes humour. A very funny example is found in Rebuilding Coventry when Dodo's brother throws his sister and her friend out of his house:

"Git out of my harse, you detty little commie, and nivver, nivver come back."[200]

                   Another example of verbal humour that was noticed neither by Leacock nor by Nelson Louis is word play. With this notion I refer to the twisting of well-known expressions, that is substituting the normal word by a word that does not normally occur in the expression. An example of a fixed collocation is 'nouveau riche'. Townsend wittily replaces the 'riche' by 'poor' in one of Adrian's entries.[201] The unexpected combination of 'nouveau' and 'poor' creates a funny effect.

                   A last example of verbal humour occurring in Townsend's work is based on the structure of the language. A striking instance of such humour can be found in The Queen and I. Little William writes a letter to his father, Prince Charles, who is in prison. The boy gives an account of what has happened in the council estate during his father's absence:

"Aunty Anne as got a horse called Gilbert. It lives in her back garden in a stabel [sic]. It is pink. The stabel not the horse."[202]

Next to the humour resulting from the boy's bad spelling there is another source of fun here: the addition of the sentence "The stabel not the horse". This extra information is totally superfluous since every sound reader automatically knows that the sentence "It is pink" refers to the stable. But from a purely linguistic point of view the explanation is necessary since the anaphoric reference of 'it' is rather dubious. The comedy of this passage results from a hilarious incongruity. The mere thought that the boy, by his additional information, includes the possibility of the horse being pink is undeniably very funny.

                   Next to verbal humour Leacock mentions humour of ideas. According to him the main source of such humour is parody. This is a technique that is often applied by Townsend. The Queen and I, is completely based on what Leacock calls 'the Parody of Transcription of Names'. He explains:

"It has no further significance than to take one person or set of persons and put them into a setting different from their usual one."[203]

This is exactly what Townsend does in her latest novel and what makes this novel such a good laugh. The royals are transferred from their normal wealthy and protected existence to an insecure, poor and hard existence on the margin of society. The incongruity of this idea is likely to cause any reader to laugh. The reading public is surprised and consequently amused to find Charles rising early in the morning and working in his garden, since they only know the Prince as an earnest aristocratic figure who spends his time visiting institutions, shaking hands and, occasionally, playing polo. Actually most of the humour in The Queen and I relies on the contrast between the real life of the royals and their dreamed-up, fictitious life.

                   Another kind of parody that occurs in Townsend's work can be described as "a protest against the over-sentimentality, or the over-reputation of the original".[204] An instance of such a parody can be traced in Rebuilding Coventry, in the newspaper article on Coventry's killing of Gerald Fox. This article is clearly a parody of the over-sentimentality, or in this case rather the over-sensationalism, of popular press coverage. A fragment from the article will prove this:

"The wife of the murdered man, Mrs Carole Fox, was today under deep sedation in hospital. Her children who witnessed the horrific slaying, are...."[205]

The description of the murder as a 'horrific slaying' makes the event much more sensational than it was in reality. Furthermore the writer of the article wants to incite a feeling of compassion for Mrs Fox and her children, who are presented as victims of the incident, while they are in fact happy to be rid of their brutal husband and father. The recognizability of such coverage and the realization of its over-sentimentality and over-sensationalism creates the humour here.

                   In the Mole saga the reader is confronted with another type of parody: the parody of literary style. The actual use of this kind of parody

"... is to render defects visible by heightening the colours to the point of visibility.(...) Hence a parody of style becomes an effective mode of criticizing style...".[206]

By means of such parody Townsend criticizes or ridicules both pulp literature and the most prestigious literature. Artistically worthless popular literature is parodied at several occasions in Mole's books. The afore-mentioned first work of 'romantic fiction' of Adrian's with its exaggerated alliteration is a good example of such a parody. Mole's prizewinning essay presented in The True Confessions, which is full of worn-out clichés, is also a fine example of similar ridicule.[207] But what is commonly considered to be superb literature is not spared either. In The Small Amphibians Townsend has Adrian write an experimental novel entitled 'Lo! The Flat Hills of My Homeland'. This piece of fiction is experimental in the sense that it lacks vowels. Unsurprisingly this manuscript is rejected by publishers and producers (Adrian even sends it to the National Theatre with a proposition to turn it into a play) since these people find the work unreadable. These rejections elicit the teenager's following comment:

"Perhaps I should put the vowels back in. The world of literature is obviously not ready for another James Joyce."[208]

In the given context this could be interpreted as criticism of Joyce's hermetic style and of the extolling of the virtues of that style. Some writers, once they have established a reputation, can produce anything and be as experimental as they like. Their literary products are received as works of genius while the experimental tryouts of unknown artists are regarded as rubbish. It is this sort of over-estimation that Townsend ridicules here.

                   Parody is often based on exaggeration. This is the case when Adrian concludes that he has probably "expelled at least two gallons of snot" after a night of sneezing.[209] The humour results from the impossibility, or in other words the incongruity.

                   The use of the mock-heroic technique is in a way similar to parody. This method

"... rests for its humour on the pretence of terrific importance of things that don't really matter".[210]

Or as Martin Stephen defines it, it is

"... the style which uses the grand, elevated and noble style of the epic poem to deal with a trivial and base subject".[211]

An excellent and very funny illustration of this technique occurs in Coventry's story. The heroine has newly arrived in London and she urgently needs to go to the toilet. But she does not have any money. Hence she is not allowed to enter the toilet, which is attended by a surly unfriendly woman. In Coventry's words:

"She barred my way with her massive body. She was the Keeper of the Turnstile. The Controller of Bladders. The Director of Bowels. To enter her kingdom I needed a magical piece of silver."[212]

The prestigious denominations 'Keeper', 'Controller' and 'Director' stand in sharp contrast with the woman's real job. These terms remind the reader of similar titles used in heroic epics like Beowulf. Similarly the word 'kingdom' and the 'magical piece of silver' could as well appear in some grand epic poem. The ludicrous effect comes from the incongruity between the grandness of the diction and the lowliness of the woman referred to.

                   A third general resource of comedy that Leacock discusses is the humour of situation. He states that this kind of amusement arises:

"... out of any set of circumstances that involve discomfiture or disaster of some odd incongruous kind, not connected with the ordinary run of things and not involving sufficient pain or disaster to over-weigh the pleasures of contemplating this incongruous distress..."[213]

The most famous example of such humour is the 'slapstick humour' which occurs in the films of Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin. This humour of situation is almost exactly the same as what Nelson Louis calls "Action Humour". His definition of this concept is added here since it provides a more concrete image of this sort of comedy.

"Action Humour is generated from some physical activity such as blunders, absurd doings, incongruities, embarrassment of someone due to an accident, general confusion including some falling and tumbling about, and turning the tables on someone..."[214]

Townsend uses this 'humour of situation' quite often in all her fiction. The most hilarious examples are found in the Mole diaries. For instance in Adrian's report about his (secret) visit to a dress party at Pandora's house:

"A knight in armour was clanking about in the garden. He was being followed by a cavewoman who was shouting, 'Stand still, Damian. I've found a tin opener'."[215]

The situation presented here is doubly funny. First of all the fact that the man is obviously unable to get out of his armour is an excellent piece of situational humour. The man must of course be very embarrassed about this painful situation. It is funny because the distress does not overweigh the pleasure of contemplating this incongruous situation. Furthermore the humour of the passage is heightened by the impossibility, or incongruity of having a cavewoman and a knight in one and the same scene. The joke is strengthened by another anachronistic incongruity: the cavewoman finding a tin opener. The entire passage is not at all connected with 'the ordinary run of things' and this leads to a frustration of the reader's expectations which is, as it was pointed out at the beginning of this chapter, a cause for amusement.

                   Leacock distinguishes one particular kind of 'humour of situation': the humour of discomfiture.

"This turns upon the blunders and misadventures and minor miseries of which the characters concerned are perpetual victims. The laugh is at their ineptitude and distress."[216]

Adrian Mole is a perfect example of such a 'perpetual victim'. He continuously blunders and experiences 'minor miseries'. Because of this repetition of failures the reader is likely to be amused by every misfortune befalling the unfortunate anti-hero. When in the last entry of The Secret Diary the boy reports how a toy plane he has assembled gets stuck to his nose after he tried "an experimental sniff of glue" the reader cannot but laugh about this misadventure.[217]

                   The fifth chapter of Leacocks book on humour deals with yet another variety: the humour of character. The writer explains:

"By this is meant differences and oddities in character of a nature to involve an incongruity, contradiction or paradox, and thus set up that frustrated expectation which we have seen to be the basis of all humour."[218]

This variety of humour like the other varieties, recurs in most of Townsend's books. This is the case in True Confessions of Margaret Hilda Roberts. Margaret is presented as an extremely odd character who is the opposite of a normal human being. Whereas normal schoolchildren dislike Mondays and the first schooldays after a holiday, little Margaret is enthralled at the prospect of another week at school.[219] Contrary to other children of her age she is very conscientious and tidy. As a result of her aberrant behaviour and habits all the reader's expectations are frustrated. In the Mole diaries it is Adrian who is the queer character and hence a very ludicrous one.

                   In his chapter on the 'humour of character' Leacock alleges that a writer does not only need character and situation for the best effects of humour but rather "that elusive element called atmosphere". "Atmosphere", he continues, "is given to a book when the writer writes in the name of one of his characters".[220] This is clearly the case in the Mole diaries, in Thatcher's diary and for some chapters in Rebuilding Coventry.[221] In all of these books Townsend succeeds in creating a wonderful atmosphere by combining her own voice with the voice of her characters. This combination lies at the basis of a lot of funny passages.

                   Next to the four varieties of humour already discussed, there are some other resources of comedy. Laughing in itself, for example, can be a very effective cause of laughter. No one can deny that laughter can be very contagious. When one watches a comic film in the company of others one is likely to laugh more often than when watching the film on one's own. Other people's laughter causes the observer to be amused as well. This principle is applied by Townsend at several places in Adrian's diary. The teenager sometimes renders his laughter in his journal.

"John Major has got Lawson's job. Apparently John Major's father was a knife-thrower in the circus. I wonder if John Major stabbed Lawson in the back? Ha! Ha! Ha!...".[222]

In fact Adrian's little joke is in bad taste and the reader will normally not laugh. But by including Adrian's laughter Townsend does make the reader at least smile.

                   Comparison is not necessarily funny. Yet it can be instrumental in the creation of comedy. Leacock even considers comparison "the very soul of humour".[223] Here and there very original and amusing metaphors and similies occur in Townsend's books. A very funny simile is presented by Adrian when he describes his father's behaviour in the bathroom:

"He can't wash his face without sounding like two warthogs mating in a watering hole."[224]

The originality of Adrian's association of his father with despicable animals as warthogs is both surprising and humorous.

                   Michael Mulkay considers "the flaw or contradiction in the serious mode of discourse" to be "the ultimate source of humour".[225] Adrian's diary on the whole may be very hilarious, nevertheless it does pretend to be serious. Consequently Adrian's paradoxical statement

"I am an intellectual but at the same time I am not very clever".[226]

is very humorous. In fact a lot of the humour created in the Mole saga is based on the opposition (or contradiction) between his false self-image (he thinks of himself as a genius) and his actual ignorance and stupidity. In Rebuilding Coventry the reader also finds a fine example of humour through contradiction. Coventry claims:

"I am not normally an aggressive woman. Apart from the one murder I've committed..."[227]

This paradox creates the incongruity that is "an essential and persistent feature of humour".[228]

                   Irony, the kind of humour that crops up when someone says something but really means the opposite, is used rather sparsely by Sue Townsend. One of the few examples can be found in Townsend's least successful novel in a telephone conversation between Sidney's wife and Coventry. When the former asks Coventry how she is, the heroine of the novel answers "I'm very well" while she is actually hungry, homeless and alone.[229] This is a fine example of someone who says the opposite of what she means.

                   The final sort of humour in Townsend's fiction that is to be discussed here is black humour. This kind finds its origin in facts or events that are far from funny, such as death, being an invalid, terminal diseases, etcetera.[230] Black humour often occurs in the Mole cycle especially with regard to the approaching death of Bert Baxter. When Bert is about to marry Queenie Adrian comments

"In my opinion it is a waste of time. Bert is nearly ninety and Queenie is nearly eighty. I will leave it until the last minute before I buy a wedding present."[231]

The youngster is clearly afraid that the purchase of a present might be in vain since one of the two fiancés could die before their wedding day. Then Adrian would be left with a useless present. Although death is a very earnest and grave subject people can still laugh at it.

                   There are probably more sources of humour or kinds of humour in Townsend's fiction. Nevertheless the varieties discussed above suffice to conclude that Townsend is a creative and versatile humorist. She manages to amuse her reading public from the first page to the last, avoiding monotony and predictability. By displaying a brilliant sense of humour Townsend totally disproves the statement that "women have a less developed sense of humour".[232]

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[176].Janice Turner, "Making mountain out of Mole thrills", in East Anglian Daily Times, September 20, 1989.

[177].Jean W. Ross, Interview with Sue Townsend, in Contemporary Authors, CXXVII, 1989, p. 458.

[178].Paul Liekens, Humor. Inzicht dat verlicht. Deventer: Ankh-Hermes BV, 1991, p. 11 and p. 14.

[179].Stephen Leacock, Humour and Humanity: An Introduction to the Study of Humour., London: Thornton Butterworth Ltd, 1937, p. 11.

[180].Robert Nelson Louis, Responses of Sixth Grade Students to Two Types of Humour present in Fiction for Children, and an Investigation of the Types of Humour found in Books for the Middle Grade Reader, Michigan: Michigan State University, 1974, p. 5.

[181].Judith King, The Book of British Humour, Essex: Longman, 1981, p. 6.

[182].Michael Mulkay, On Humour: its Nature and its Place in Modern Society, Cambridge: Polite Press, 1988, p. 215.

Martha Wolfenstein, Children's Humour, Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1978, p. 11.

[183].Arnold Gesell and Francis Ilg, The Child from Five to Ten; New York: Harper and Brothers, 1946, p. 35.

[184].Leland Jacobs, "Very, Very Funny", in Instructor, November, 1965, p. 34.

[185].Robert Nelson Louis, Responses of Sixth Grade Students to Two Types of Humour, Michigan: Michigan State University 1974, p. 9.

[186].This list of aspects is a combination of Leacock's and Nelson Louis's types of verbal humour.

[187].Sue Townsend, The Secret Diary, p. 24 and p. 26, diary entries Sunday January 25th and Wednesday January 28th.

[188].Sue Townsend, idem, p. 203, diary entry Thursday May 6th.

[189].Parody will be discussed as a means of creating humour further on in this chapter.

[190].Stephen Leacock, Humour and Humanity, p. 38.

[191].Sue Townsend, The Growing Pains, p. 196, diary entry Sunday April 18th.

[192].Sue Townsend, True Confessions of Margaret Hilda Roberts, p. 135.

[193].Stephen Leacock, Humour and Humanity, p. 38.

[194].Sue Townsend, Rebuilding Coventry, p. 86.

[195].Sue Townsend, The Growing Pains, p. 219, entry of Saturday June 12th.

[196].Sue Townsend, True Confessions, p. 386, January 1st 1985.

[197].Sue Townsend, The Secret Diary, p. 163, entry Wednesday March 10th.

[198].Stephen Leacock, Humour and Humanity, p. 171.

[199].Sue Townsend, The Queen and I, p. 79.

[200].Sue Townsend, Rebuilding Coventry, p. 113.

[201].Sue Townsend, The Secret Diary, p. 167.

[202].Sue Townsend, The Queen and I, p. 190.

[203].Stephen Leacock, Humour and Humanity, p. 68.

[204].Stephen Leacock, Humour and Humanity, p. 76.

[205].Sue Townsend, Rebuilding Coventry, p. 56.

[206].Stephen Leacock, Humour and Humanity, pp. 73-74.

[207].Sue Townsend, True Confessions, p. 416, entry January 1986.

[208].Sue Townsend, The Small Amphibians, p. 481 Sunday June 3rd.

[209].Idem, p. 472, entry Tuesday December 12th.

[210].Stephen Leacock, Humour and Humanity, p. 159.

[211].Martin Stephen, An Introductory Guide to English Literature, London: Longman-York Press, 1985, p. 28.

[212].Sue Townsend, Rebuilding Coventry, p. 23.

[213].Stephen Leacock, Humour and Humanity, p. 93.

[214].Robert Nelson Louis, Responses of Sixth Grade Students, p. 6.

[215].Sue Townsend, The Growing Pains, p. 207, entry Saturday May 15th.

[216].Stephan Leacock, Humour and Humanity, p. 106.

[217].Sue Townsend, The Secret Diary, p. 175.

[218].Stephen Leacock, Humour and Humanity, p. 116.

[219].Sue Townsend, True Confessions of Margaret Hilda Roberts, p. 137.

[220].Stephen Leacock, Humour and Humanity, p. 126.

[221].In this novel Townsend presents the story from the point of view of an omniscient narrator in half of the chapters and from the heroine's point of view in the other half.

[222].Sue Townsend, The Small Amphibians, p. 465.

[223].Stephen Leacock, Humour and Humanity, p. 212.

[224].Sue Townsend, True Confessions of Adrian Mole, p. 394.

[225].Michael Mulkay, On Humour: its Nature and its Place in Modern Society, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1988, p. 214.

[226].Sue Townsend, The Secret Diary, p. 158, entry Monday January 18th.

[227].Sue Townsend, Rebuilding Coventry, p. 47.

[228].Michael Mulkay, On Humour: its Nature and its Place in Modern Society, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1988, p. 35.

[229].Sue Townsend, Rebuilding Coventry, p. 85.

At first sight it may seem as if Coventry is feigning to be allright because she does not want her sister in law to know how bad she really is, but the heroine does not have any motif for doing so.

[230].Judith King, The Book of British Humour, Essex: Longman, 1981, p. 50.

[231].Sue Townsend, The Secret Diary, p. 158.

[232].Michael Mulkay, On Humour: its Nature and its Place in Modern Society, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1988, p. 125.