The Kugelmass Episode

by Woody Allen

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Student Question

In what ways are Kugelmass, Emma, and Daphne flat characters in "The Kugelmass Episode"?

Expert Answers

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I think that Allen constructs all three characters as flat to reflect how their conditions are uniquely human.  All of them feature a tendency to be dissatisfied with their current conditions of being.  At the same time, neither of them are able to ask the difficult questions that prompt rumination and a sense of reflection about who they are and what they are doing in this life.  This lack of affect on a spiritual level is what helps to make them flat.  They simply go on with their lives and live it without really the critical examination that would make them round and vibrant characters.  Allen might be seeking to make the statement that the modern setting is one in which it is easier to be a flat character than one with depth.  As he himself says in his film Crimes and Misdemeanors, "smoldering depth and sensitivity does not always win."  For this reason, Kugelmass is shown to be one who does not learn his lesson, seeking to want to go back to Portnoy's Complaint, but rather chased by the verb "tener" in a remedial Spanish book.  Emma finds herself no better off in New York than in Yonville, continually seeking to want something more and better than what is in front of her and unable to make what is in front of her something more worthwhile. For her part, Daphne refuses to really do anything about the fact that her husband might have a "chippie." She continues on with her world because it seems to be much easier to live the life of banality and a lack of questioning than it is to raise the fundamental questions that strike at one's being and force a critical examination of it.  In this, Allen has constructed flat characters consistent with this philosophical idea of the modern setting.

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