Lost in the Funhouse

by John Barth

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How does John Barth incorporate humor in Lost in the Funhouse?

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In John Barth's Lost in the Funhouse, we see humor deployed in multiple ways. One way Barth uses humor is to show us what a book can do and be. We can cut out things from a book. We can also record ourselves reading the book out loud. With the more traditional stories, Barth seems to use humor to make fun of literary genres and ideas. "Night-Sea Journey" could be an adventure satire. "Petition" might make fun of family drama.

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In the Author's Note, John Barth tells us that Life in the Funhouse is "neither a collection nor a selection" of short fiction. Rather, it's a “series” of “items.” Indeed, part of the fun or humor of Barth's book is that we don't know what we're getting ourselves into from one item to the next. Maybe we’ll have something like a typical story. Maybe, as with the first item, we’ll just have to cut something out. We could say Barth uses humor to show us the different things we can do with—and to—one book.

The stories that more or less meet our definition of a typical story tend to use humor to make fun of other, more serious literary genres and devices. We might say "Night-Sea Journey" lampoons adventure stories as well as characters who are inclined toward long, philosophical monologues.

Barth might also be using humor to get us thinking about more serious issues. In "Petition," we might wonder what the conjoined twin's difficulties tells us about the suffering of "the other." We might also ponder what it tells us about the cruelty of humans, when even someone who is physically joined to another person can still treat that other person like a second-class citizen.

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