[an analysis by Nathan Gibson]
Richard Bausch’s “Aren’t You Happy For Me?” centers on a father’s reaction to his daughter’s surprise engagement. Barely recovering from the initial shock, the news only gets worse: his daughter’s pregnant! While still shocked, he absorbs the news surprisingly well. He prepares to tell her of he and his wife’s collapsing marriage and impending separation, but she stops him to lay down the final blow: her new fiancé is 19 years older than her own father.
The narrative is written as a sort of building joke. The situation seems to build with every moment as new details stream in from the daughter. The father character’s use of industrial-strength humor keeps the reader just as incredulous as the father. Often times, the reader might find herself agreeing with the father and his clever quips on the true insanity of the situation.
From the very beginning of the story, the author leads the reader to a connection between the mother and father’s relationship and the girl and her fiancé’s relationship. By having the daughter use her parent’s relationship as a “measure,” we are given a glimpse into the daughter’s future. More specifically, we are led to believe that the daughter’s relationship will mirror that of her parents: a young and foolish start with a drastic and disappointing end.
The father’s inability to make any comments other than insults or jokes gives us an idea of his true position. Because of his failed relationship with his wife, he knows he is no real position to be giving advice on marriage partners. Even while his daughter is talking, though, he can’t seem to take his eyes off of his soon-to-be ex-wife, further clarifying the connection between mother and daughter.
The author also makes use of humor to take the reader by surprise. Throughout the whole piece, the author’s humor keeps the reader laughing, making the entire story seem to be one big joke. After the jokes died down, the reader is confronted with the cold reality of the father’s situation. This works to effectively help the reader to empathize with the father’s character and truly feel his grief at losing his wife and daughter.