Essay, Research Paper: Arsenic And Old Lace


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Beginning with acts such as Abbott and Costello, and episodes of "I Love
Lucy," humor is often the result of a misunderstanding. In the movie,
"Arsenic and Old Lace," the plot combines murder and insanity.
"Arsenic and Old Lace," seemingly outlines a mystery or drama, however
with the addition of misunderstanding, it becomes a comedy. The humor is drawn
from the characters' relationships with one another as well as the characters
themselves, being misunderstood. The movie centers on two sisters, Abby and
Martha, and their nephew Mortimer. The misunderstanding lies between the sisters
and the townspeople. Abby and Martha are known as sweet, kind, and charitable,
however, the town is oblivious to the sisters' hobby of poisoning old men and
burying them in their cellar. There is even a misunderstanding with the sisters
themselves, as they see nothing wrong with what they do, and make no attempt to
hide it. Yet, the humor of the movie is when their nephew, Mortimer, finds the
bodies, and is quite flustered to discover how his aunts treat it with such
nonchalance. Humor is also found in the misunderstanding between Mortimer and
his Brewster family. Throughout the entire movie, Mortimer finds himself ashamed
of his Brewster name. He discovers that his aunts keep twelve bodies in the
basement. Mortimer also receives a visit from his lunatic brother John, who,
like his aunts, murders people. While Mortimer discovers more about his insane
family, he still must deal with his brother Theodore, who believes that he is
President Roosevelt. Finally, Mortimer commits his brother Theodore along with
his aunts to an insane asylum. The humor in this scene is at the very end of the
movie when Mortimer finds out from his aunts that he is not really a Brewster,
rather a son of a sea boat captain. "Arsenic and Old Lace," is not the
typical comedy, yet contains all of the elements necessary to fit into the humor
genre. The idea of being misunderstood is one so common; it has appeared in many
films, both drama and comedy. "Arsenic and Old Lace" contains a plot
that is unique. The movie's ideas alone are common, yet together they mix an
unusual blend of humor.
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