Closely examine one paragraph and assess the effect of humor in it.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that Allen's "Speech to the Graduates" represents some of his best attempts at combining sarcasm as well the pressing need in relaying his thoughts to the next generation.  Consider his statement on political leaders as an example of this:

The trouble is, our leaders have not adequately prepared us for a mechanized society. Unfortunately our politicians are either incompetent or corrupt. Sometimes both on the same day. The Government is unresponsive to the needs of the little man. Under five-seven, it is impossible to get your Congressman on the phone. I am not denying that democracy is still the finest form of government. In a democracy at least, civil liberties are upheld. No citizen can be wantonly tortured, imprisoned, or made to sit through certain Broadway shows.

In this paragraph, there are some distinct examples of sarcasm.  The "unresponsive to the needs of the little man" is followed with the literal reference to make both the statement and sentiment one ripe with humor. The idea of civil liberties is something that Allen uses sarcasm to describe.  Allen is able to suggest that freedom and human ability are not always synonymous with success, undercutting this with a typical Allen statement about the potential for pretentiousness in art as embodied in his scathing statement about Broadway shows.  In both of these examples in this paragraph of Allen's speech, the use of sarcasm is designed to bring both attention to the reality of the modern predicament through humor that both entertains and enlightens.

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