In his essay “The Boom in Yellow,” (text) Richard LaGalliene employs a variety of techniques that add humor to the piece. His discussion of yellow hair specifically demonstrates several different humorous devices.
If yellow be denied entrance to beautiful eyes, it enjoys a privilege which—except in the case of certain indigostaining African tribes, who cannot be said to count—blue has never claimed that of colouring perhaps the loveliest thing in the world, the hair of woman. Hair is naturally golden—unnaturally also. When Browning sings pathetically of 'dear dead women-with such hair too!' he continues in "A Toccata of Galuppi's":
What's become of all the gold
Used to hang and brush their bosoms --
not 'all the blue' or 'all the brown, though some of us, it is true, are condemned to wear our hair brown or blue-black. But such are only unhappy exceptions. Yellow or gold is the rule. The bravest men and the fairest women have had golden hair, and, we may add, in reference to another distinction of the colour we are celebrating, golden hearts. Hair at the present time is doing its best to conform to its normal conditions of colour. Numerous instances might be adduced of its changing from black to gold, in obedience to chemical law. 'Peroxide of hydrogen!' says the cynic. 'Beauty!' says the lover of art.
1. What is the effect of alternating long, wordy sentences with shorter, more direct ones? What are some other techniques that he uses to create a humorous tone?
2. Does he really believe that “the bravest men and the fairest women have had golden hair”? How can you tell?
3. What function does quoting the lines of poetry serve? Can this be seen in some way as mocking the idea of establishing ethos?
Last modified: 16 October 2003