Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Only Every Day, Dolly. Only Every Day.

All right...that's it. I give up. I simply can't stay away from The Family Circus. It is, quite simply, the perfect medieval comic. It has it all: archaic family dynamics, pronounced and rigid morality, allegorical characters and situations, and a complete dissociation with twenty-first-century American life. I don't think it is written by an acquaintance of the monks responsible for Apartment 3-G, Archie, and The Better Half, but I'm pretty sure the writers are intimately acquainted with the medieval Christian world-view. They have a deep, abiding, complex understanding of exactly how things worked six hundred years ago in England. It is a pity they can't go back there.*

Today, Dolly expounds upon her father's sex life and the punishment God is meting out as a result of it. Unlike Hagar, Big Daddy Keane knows exactly why he is being "punished"; so, it seems, does Dolly, who here cannily connects her father's position "in bed" with his comeuppance. Wise beyond her years, Dolly also notes the subtle distinction between "bed" as pleasure and purgatory, thus pointing out that sex, though a necessity for the continuation of the species, is also technically a Very Bad Thing, especially when not undertaken purely for reasons of procreation. Daddy, Dolly implies, is a fornicator. Daddy fornicates a lot.** He should, in fact, undergo harsh bed-related punishment.

It should be noted that Daddy's woebegone look is, while inexplicable in a twenty-first-century context, perfectly reasonable for a medieval work. Daddy is not as comfortable as he looks. That bed, my friends, is a bed of pain. It is scouring his flesh. He is writhing in agony. He is hugging the pillow because in his red-hot, throbbing world of bodily distress, it is really all he has left aside from a faint and swiftly receding hope of Heaven.

P.S.: "ben in peyne" here means "to be punished," not "to be in pain"...though the connotations are certainly similar in this particular instance.

*And leave us the hell alone.
**To be fair, Daddy also procreates a lot. He has four hideously deformed children whom medieval moralists would possibly believe have been born looking as they do as punishment for Daddy's sins.


Skullturf Q. Beavispants said...

It would seem that that sense of "peyne" didn't completely fade with the Middle Ages -- you see it later on in constructions like "under pain of imprisonment".

Angry Kem said...

Yes..."on pain of death" as well. Good point.

Words are often silly little things.