Themes and Meanings

Literature, philosophy, intellectual pretensions, sex, and parody are the most common elements in Woody Allen’s fiction, and all are on display in “The Whore of Mensa.” The story is Allen’s second parody of the kind of detective fiction associated with Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. In the first, “Mr. Big,” Kaiser Lupowitz is hired to prove or disprove the existence of God. Allen’s intellectual satire can also be seen in such diverse works as “Spring Bulletin,” “The Irish Genius,” “No Kaddish for Weinstein,” and, especially, “The Kugelmass Episode.”

Allen has frequently been criticized for filling his stories, plays, and films with in-jokes aimed at a limited audience, but that audience is simply anyone reasonably well read. Allen’s satire depends on his reader recognizing the comic incongruity of Sherry’s being arrested for reading Commentary in a parked car, Lupowitz’s threatening to have Sherry tell her story at Alfred Kazin’s office, the detective’s asking, “Suppose I wanted Noam Chomsky explained to me by two girls?,” and Sherry’s attempting to bribe Lupowitz with photographs of Dwight Macdonald reading.

Allen’s humor is aimed at intellectuals while making fun of them. Lupowitz responds to his first sight of Sherry: “They really know how to appeal to your fantasies. Long straight hair, leather bag, silver earrings, no make-up.” Like Alvy Singer’s first wife in...

(The entire section is 494 words.)