Study Guide

The Reivers Genre

By William Faulkner

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Comedy; Coming-Of-Age

Coming-of-age tales are often intertwined with comedy. Just think of things like The Graduate, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Breakfast Club, and even American Pie. They're all classic stories about growing up that have us clutching our sides each time we watch them.

So just what makes growing up so funny?

For starters, we don't always make the best choices when we're teenagers. (Or when we're adults, but that's another story.) At the time, the decisions we make may seem like pretty good ones, but when we evaluate them later, or from a more seasoned perspective, we might reconsider.

The Reivers, your classic, hilarious, coming-of-age tale, is all about making those decisions. Lucius chooses to help steal Grandfather's new car, he chooses to accompany Boon, and he chooses to lie through his teeth. "It has been my observation that," he says, "except in a few scattered cases of what might be called malevolent hyper-prematurity, children, like poets, lie rather for pleasure than for profit" (3.25). Great observation, Lucius.

Is Lucius, like all who grow up, wholly wrong in choosing to lie? Not necessarily, because we know that our choices lead to other decisions and other choices that wind up becoming some of the most transformative and educational experiences of our lives.

We're not saying go out and choose to act badly. But what we are saying is that all actions have an equal or opposite reaction (thanks Newton). When we chose to take a risk, it can yield great rewards. It can lead to new friends, new adventures, and new things to learn about ourselves.

Perhaps that's why growing up is so comedic. There's no sound logic behind why seemingly bad choices can sometimes bring good things. And that's pretty funny.

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