Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The laugher is typical of the characters in Böll’s later satires. Written in the first person and confessional in tone, these satires allow their narrators to relate the details of their odd occupations or unusual ways of life; their work is usually beneath human ability and unrewarding. Perhaps the best known of this genre is “The Thrower-away” (1957), which like “The Laugher” begins with the narrator expressing discomfort about telling what he does for a living. Through such characters, Böll exposes social realities.

Böll’s satires generally have a nameless, unemotional narrator, starkly realistic description, and exaggerated details. “The Laugher” has all of these characteristics but it differs from much satire in being stripped of a specific historical context. Details such as the thriving television and film industries help place this story loosely in the mid-twentieth century, but the narrator himself could be in almost any society with a capitalistic economy. “The Laugher” relies on the exaggerated details to reveal the plight of meaningless work and superficial lives. The laugher has no national history and no connection to his government. Böll sees a danger in this sort of life in that such disconnection of the citizenry of Germany allowed Hitler to come to power. Through “The Laugher,” Böll both analyzes and criticizes social reality.

In his critique of Böll’s satires, Conard says that Böll carries...

(The entire section is 506 words.)