For early Americans, humor was an effective means of integrating a diverse and factionalized society, whereas satire was not only divisive but a sign of despotism. Melville's achievement was to adapt amiable humor to the drama of political and psychological doubt inherent in a democracy. Poe, however, was relentlessly satiric. Still, we find a "humorizing" of Poe in three Ape Tales: "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether," and "Hop Frog." Clifford Geertz's notions of ritual as an interplay of self and culture and of symbol as an individual's peculiar enactment of larger cultural patterns show how humor and satire operate in the culture as both ritual and antiritual. Humor is ritualized accommodation: satire is ritualized attack. As ritual, humor fuses transcendental ideality ("worldview") and personal disbelief ("ethos"), allowing us to replay the drama of confidence and doubt. As antiritual, humor fulfills the same social functions but thorough unreliable narrative. Similarly, satire as ritual attack affirms the functionality of reader and culture but by reinforcing factions; and as antiritual it performs its affirmation thourhg such forms of unreliability as hoax. Poe relies heavily on the antiritual of satire, using the hoax as a means of enacting the private ethos of his repressed sexuality in the context of his worldview of transcendental beauty. While such antirituals betray a comic dysfunctionality in Poe, his ritualized replay of the ape reveals a development toward more integrative rituals of humor. "Rue Morgue" is a hoax against readers that effectively covers up Poe's problematic identification of himself with the tale's sexually charged ape of unreason. In "Tarr and Fether" the reader witnesses Maillard's hoax against the narrator and gains deeper insight into Poe's hidden sexuality. This neglected comic tour de force is more satiric ritual than antiritual. With "Hop-Frog" Poe replays the ape imagery in fairy-tale form and in fact becomes the ape of unreason. In acknowledging this identity he moves more fully toward a ritual of humor. Overall, the humorization of Poe's satiric intent suggests a certain cultural inevitability in the growth of humor over satire as an effective response to the divisiveness and metaphysical doubt inherent in the democratic experience.
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