Most teenagers can agree to not understanding their parents unique form of humor. In this passage from “Kiss and Tell” by Alain de Botton, a comical scene is presented through situation, diction, the use of irony, and through his description of the predictable behavior of Isabel’s parents, defining the relatable embarrassment most children encounter with their parents. Throughout the passage she makes clear efforts in avoiding them.
When Isabel first sees her parents, she shows great disapproval of the outfit her mother is wearing, resembling a “willow tree.” She also critiques if her mothers is accompanied by certain gentleman friends she doesn’t care for, which could reveal her mother’s marital infidelities. “I hope she didn’t come with one of her gentlemen friends she’s really too old for that”(7).
Isabels anxiety is made obvious through her diction, such as “Oh my God”, and “careful don’t look.” Throughout the narrative, Isabel describes her parents actions in a humorous tone, mimicking how her father sneezes in an onomatopoeia in line 15. There is also a bit of irony, because although her parents are making a scene across the theater, she is making a scene, critiquing them in front of her date. Isabel is clearly stating all her parents negative qualities and it’s evident that she is ashamed.
It seems as if Isabel’s mother is unaware of the four hundred people in the auditorium when she shouts Isabels name with “all the excitement of a woman recognizing a long-lost friend on the deck of an in-coming cruise ship.” (35-37) Which is quite interesting as her father is described to be waving to a “departing” cruise ship, this accentuates their uniquely different personalities.
Once the play is over, her mother compliments her lovely dress while also critiquing her breast size in front of her date, “pity you don’t have more of a cleavage for it, but that’s your father‘s fault. You know what all the woman in his family are like.” (56-58) She also makes a somewhat ironic comment, telling her daughters date “she’s a lovely girl really”(73) as if he had doubts and was apologizing for Isabel’s behavior.
Irony comes into play when luck leaves Isabel and her father waves at her, “so that she might cease to to dwell in ignorance.”(25-26) She emphasizes on the “vigorous” arm motions her father makes, resembling “a man waving off a departing cruise ship.”(29) At this point in the passage, Isabel portrays her father as a “maniac” describing anything he does as silly.
More irony is added when Isabel perfectly predicts her parents argument about her father losing the parking ticket at the end of the passage. The most humorous scene was when her father payed more attention to the light fixtures than her date while he looked straight upward, “They’re new tungsten bulbs, Japanese things, quite wonderful, they use only a small amount of electricity but give off a very nice light.”(66-69)
While this situation is highly embarrassing for Isabel, the attention given to details allows the reader to relate to the situation. Alain de Botton’s “Kiss and Tell” depicts a silly family incident in a humorous tone. With a combination of familiar situational humor, irony, and diction provide a hilarious effect that makes the reader laugh. The vivid detail to humiliation brought on by her parents creates a tormenting situation for Isabel, but a source of great comedy for the readers.