The Night the Bed Fell

by James Thurber

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Over the years Thurber's fiction paralleled to some degree the events in his life. Most of his contributions to the New Yorker were published in the 1930s, and most of the earlier pieces were more light-hearted and innocent than those that were written during his marital difficulties with Althea (whom he divorced in June 1935 to marry Helen Wismer a month later), during social upheavals such as World War II and the McCarthy Era (which he spoke out against on many occasions), and particularly during the bleak periods of physical illness and, in spite of numerous operations, advancing blindness which led to an emotional breakdown as well. The fiction that was produced during Thurber's black periods is terrifying, bitter, cold, and harsh. Closely aligned with the side of Thurber that delighted in cruel practical jokes and the misery of others, many pieces like "The Cane in the Corridor" (January 2, 1943; reprinted in The Thurber Carnival, 1945), a Poesque tale of a hospital visitor, cannot be classified as humorous by any definition.

However, Thurber's best humor is unsurpassed, and he wrote fine humorous fiction throughout his career. One of the writer's earlier New Yorker stories is also one of his best — "The Night the Bed Fell" from the summer 1933 series "My Life and Hard Times" (July 8; the series was subsequently published as a hard-cover collection under the same title). Part of the semi-autobiographical, semifictional genre that Thurber excelled in, the piece describes a hilarious sequence of events and misunderstandings that purportedly took place one evening during the humorist's childhood in Columbus. The humor builds as each event in the series compounds what has gone before, and the events come faster and faster as the account proceeds.

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