The Kugelmass Episode Analysis

Style and Technique (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Kugelmass Episode” is a very amusing story, and its humor is that of a network of incongruities. There is a striking disparity between anxious, balding Kugelmass and the glamorous life that he would lead. The reader laughs at his pretensions and groans for his frailties. Kugelmass is yet another version of the distinctive Allen persona, familiar from other stories and from Allen’s film roles. He is a contemporary American reincarnation of the Yiddish schlemiel figure: the hapless man who, according to the Yiddish proverb, falls on his back and breaks his nose. Though Sidney Kugelmass, whose very name ludicrously undercuts his romantic aspirations, has failed at everything, including freshman English, he naïvely keeps returning for more.

After Emma and Kugelmass exchange their first remarks, the reader is told, “She spoke in the same fine English translation as the paperback.” By the end of the relationship, Emma is complaining to Kugelmass that “watching TV all day is the pits.” Much of the humor in this story results from juxtaposing the florid style of a literary classic—about a woman steeped in literary rhetoric—with the casual vernacular of a modern, irreverent New Yorker. Kugelmass holds a respected social position and is in awe of Emma Bovary, but his speech is laced with outdated proletarian slang: “sock it to me,” “scam,” and “jitterbug.” His streetwise talk is as affected as are provincial Emma’s aristocratic...

(The entire section is 417 words.)

The Kugelmass Episode Historical Context

New York City, Comedy, and the Jewish American Experience
The first Jews to settle in North America arrived in New York City,...

(The entire section is 829 words.)

The Kugelmass Episode Literary Style

Farce/Satire
‘‘The Kugelmass Episode’’ uses humor and comic situations to poke fun at people and situations and to show...

(The entire section is 553 words.)

The Kugelmass Episode Compare and Contrast

1970s: There are approximately 5.5 million Jews living in the United States, of which about 1.2 million live in New York City. Jews...

(The entire section is 163 words.)

The Kugelmass Episode Topics for Further Study

Research the terms satire, farce, parody, irony, spoof, and send-up. What are the differences...

(The entire section is 219 words.)

The Kugelmass Episode Media Adaptations

The Audio CD Fierce Pajamas: Selections from an Anthology of Humor Writing from the New Yorker, a recording of the collection edited...

(The entire section is 120 words.)

The Kugelmass Episode What Do I Read Next?

Madame Bovary (1857), by Gustave Flaubert, the novel in which Kugelmass gets projected, is the story of a young wife of a country...

(The entire section is 210 words.)

The Kugelmass Episode Bibliography and Further Reading

Sources
Champion, Laurie, ‘‘Allen’s ‘The Kugelmass Episode,’’’ in Explicator, Vol. 51, No. 1, Fall 1992, pp. 61–63.

Harty, John, ‘‘Allen’s ‘The Kugelmass Episode,’’’ in Explicator, Vol. 46, No. 3, Spring 1988, pp. 50–51.

Further Reading
Abramovitch, Ilana, and Sean Galvin, eds., Jews of Brooklyn, University Press of New England, 2001. This is a kaleidoscopic look at the history, culture, and community of Brooklyn’s Jews, from the first documented settlement of Jews in the borough in the 1830s to the present day Jewish presence.

Bakalar, Nick, and Stephen Kock, eds., American Satire: An Anthology of Writings from...

(The entire section is 199 words.)