Characters / Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Thurber sometimes combined fiction and nonfiction, as in "The Night the Bed Fell" to create what might be considered a new literary genre. The development of the concept of the "casual" at the New Yorker undoubtedly contributed to this, for the relatively light tone combined with a focus on familiar, everyday occurrences was well matched with the author's personality. The casual was also conducive to the technique of starting with an actual event in the writer's past and then branching off into fiction, extending the plot in order to carry a theme to an unlikely conclusion. Thurber was a master of casting such premises in a purely fictive mode as well. In either case, the writing style remains the same, encouraging a merging of fiction and nonfiction in the reader's mind.

The strong popular appeal of both Thurber's fiction and nonfiction is clearly attributable at least in part to the shock of recognition that readers experience with his work. The audience shares the thoughts, concerns, and even many of the experiences embodied in his characters and the circumstances in which they are placed, and the seriousness of the situation is alleviated by Thurber's humorous approach to his material. This makes the shock of recognition pleasurable, too, thereby enhancing the appeal to his readers.

The relationship between the fiction and the essays is further augmented by virtue of the content generally being presented from a purportedly objective...

(The entire section is 479 words.)