It is quite clear from even a cursory analysis of chapters of 18 and 19 of Raymond Queneau's Zazie dans le Metro, described as one of the most laughable books originally written in French (Vincendeau, 2011), that the author is describing the events that take place in them in a humorous way. As such, the reader can infer that the actions described in these two chapters, and probably through the remainder of the novel, are not literal and are meant to poke fun at a greater concept. The author's humor is certainly understated, which is why these chapters read more like a satire than a straightforward novel to produce an overall "fun" effect (No author, 1999). It is highly important that in both chapters, a good deal of the humor revolves around women. A closer examination of the author's diction and tone of voice in these chapters reveals that he utilizes women as points of comedy to underscore points that are decidedly more serious.
The best example of this proclivity of Queneau's is found early on in his treatment of one of four female characters in these two chapters, the Widow Mouaque. As the name of this character implies, the author closely associates her with death. Although there are a number of characters who are in fatal danger in chapter 18, she is the only one who dies. It is ironic that of all the male characters that the Widow Mouaque is surrounded with, that she takes it upon herself to solely attack the heavily armed gunmen who are coming to threaten the lives of a group that includes Gridoux, Gabriel, Turandot, Laverdure and the young girl Zazie. When she spots the lead assassin, Trouscaillon, she "showed her intention of pouncing upon the assailants" only to be "cut short by a good volley of machine gun bullets" (Queneau, 1959). The irony in this situation, of course, is that a woman would choose to singly attack a group of well-armed killers -- despite the fact that she was with a group of men (one of whom, the servant, promptly hid at the site of the assassins). Her heroism, however, does her little good, as her swift death by shooting proves the absurdity of her attempted attack -- and serves as a point of humor to reinforce the ridiculousness of an unarmed woman seeking to harm gun-toting assassins.
Still, it is critical to note that the author ultimately utilizes Widow Mouaque's death to demonstrate how grave a scenario the rest of the characters are facing. He does so in a way that is definitely comical, and which emphasizes the severity of the danger Zazie and her male guardians have encountered. The following quotation illustrates how essential humor is to the expiration of the widow, which serves as a warning to the rest of the characters. "The Widow Mouaque held her intestines in her hands and fainted. "How silly," she murmured, "I had private income." Then, she died" (Queneau, 1959). The comedy in this passage is so overt it is almost farcical, a statement that applies to the majority of these two chapters. It would be extremely difficult for anyone to calmly hold their intestines in their hands before passing out, and even more difficult for them to speak after they pass out. Yet, such is the sequence of events that directly proceed the Widow Mouaque's death. This sequence is so far-fetched it is clear that the author has included them for the sake of comedy, and for stretching the conventions of typical French (Armstrong, 1992, p. 4). Also, it is pivotal to realize that even the Widow herself remarks upon the silliness of her death -- both the fact that she was cut down while attempting to attack gun-carrying men and the fact that she had her own means of money with which to bribe them, conceivably. Queneau's decision to have the widow appraise her death scene as silly reinforces the comical way in which she dies, yet also serves to underscore a far more serious point that the remaining characters are in considerable danger.
Queneau invokes another female character as a means of comedy in the 19th chapter. Jeanne Lalochere is in a hurry and is supposed to pick-up Zazie from the latter's wild affair with Turandot and the others -- the details of which are unknown to Lalochere. However, in the midst of…
Sources Used in Document:
Armstrong, M-S. (1992). "Zazie dans le Metro and Neo-French." Modern Language Studies. 22 (3): 4-16.