Tragedy or Comedy? (reflection)


My scattered brain often flies back to a moment of enlightenment from several years ago.  I vividly remember several of my 6th graders staying after-school to work on their writing portfolios.

One girl proudly handed me a draft of a new story.  I asked what genre.  She said it was a comedy.

I read it.

The story was about a teen girl who goes on date after date.  In each case, a different boy died in a terrible accident on the way to their first date.  Hit by cars.  Hit by falling pianos.  You get the idea.

No character change.  No happy ending.   No resolution.  Awww.  :(

I began explaining to my student that this might... you know... be a different genre than COMEDY.   She vehemently disagreed.  I explained that - while there may be humorous elements - the overall story wasn't a comedy.  This was a TRAGEDY.  In fact, it was quite depressing and required catharsis!  Resolution!  The girl held her ground and insisted it was a COMEDY.

From a different corner of the room, another girl jumped in to her defense.  "You see, Mr. Hollins... what you need to understand is that from the point of view of a 6th grader, tragedy IS comedy."

We all laughed and shared our own catharsis-of-sorts.

Their point wasn't so much about schadenfreude.  From their point of view, they had put their finger on the paradoxical essence of classical "tragedy" and the pleasure of catharsis.  The intellectual path of catharsis seemed to be secondary to the raw vetting and acknowledgement of feelings.

Can I really blame a 12 year-old for wanting more pianos to fall during serious drama?