What is the role of humor in "Brownies"?

Quick answer:

The role of humor in "Brownies" is to help the readers connect to the experiences the children have and possibly prompt readers to remember similar experiences from their own lives. Packer uses humor around topics like religion and race to make them more relatable and question why adults often hold prejudices around those identities.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In this story, humor is used to help the reader remember what it was like to be this age, the age of the girls in the story. Mrs. Margolin's amusing acrostics for words like Bible—"Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth"—might help us to recall things like this from our own childhoods. They are reminders of the attempts adults would make to create something that would feel relevant to us, but that we would often think are ridiculous or stupid.

Likewise, the girls's interest in learning and using—however incorrectly—words with three syllables, including Caucasian, might prompt us to remember our own temporary obsessions. These passages may even cause us to remember how we became aware of racial tensions and injustices without really understanding them. Children often use words whose meanings they do not understand to impress other children. Seeing the children's mistakes or ideas, especially when they are humorous, takes the reader back to that strange time when we were growing out of our childhood innocence and into adults who are less kind and more suspicious of others. It draws our attention to how quickly bias and hate begin to develop, even before we understand what they really are.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial