The Day the Dam Broke
The Day the Dam Broke is a fascinating, captivating, remarkable humorous story written by the great American humorist James Groves Thurber. He has written a number of witty and humorous articles.
In this story, the writer has depicted the mob mentality with great dexterity. He has narrated the experiences of his Aunt Edith Taylor and his own experiences about the “Great Run” of the afternoon in Columbus city. This short story is a good example of Thurber’s sardonic but affectionate view of human behavior.
“Humour is an emotional chaos recollected in tranquillity.”
- James Thurber
James Thurber recalls an interesting incident of his early childhood when he lived in Columbus City, situated near the Ohio River in the U.S.A. All of a sudden, on March 12, 1913 a rumour spread that the River Ohio was in flood and the water would rush towards the city as the dam had broken. The people became panicky after hearing the rumour and came out on the High Street. They started running towards the East for safety with out confirming the news about the flood. In calamity ever rumour is believed. Men, Women and children were running helter-skelter towards the East.
Normal business was going on in the market, but when the rumour spread about the flood, the people who were busy in selling and buying, started to run in utter confusion for saving their lives. Two thousand people were abruptly in full right. Go East! Go East! The Dam has Broke was the clarion cry, being heard everywhere.
The writer’s aunt Edith Taylor was in a movie theatre, she wrote:
“When I reached Grant Avenue, I was so spent that Dr. H.P Mallory passed me, there was a boy behind him on roller-skates and Dr. Mallory mistook the swishing of the skates for the sound of rushing water. He eventually reached the Columbus School for Girls where he collapsed.”
The panic-stricken people ran out for safety leaving fires burning and food cooking and doors wide open. Some of the people covered the distance 12 miles in order to save their lives. At last the military men riding through the city in motor-lorries announced that the news about the flood was false and that the dam had not broken. At first the announcement added to the confusion and increased the panic, for many stampedes the militiamen were announcing, The Dam has now Broken! Thus setting an official seal of authentication on the calamity. But after repeated announcements the misunderstanding was removed and order was restored. The people heaved a sigh of relief when they heard that the dame had not broken. The people returned to their homes and started their normal business the next day, but they did not joke about the happenings of the previous day. It is rightly said:
“How much have cost us the evils that never happened.”
This story is a good study of human behaviour. It shows that men lose all there wit and wisdom in a panic. In fact, this humorous story is also a satire on human follies.
“The mob has many heads but no brains.”
Through all the funny references Thurber has tried to point out that all of us no matter how serious and sober, behave in one and the same idiotic manner when we are thrown in a trying situation
“Stuffing the ear with false report.”
- William Shakespeare
Thurber has presented, in this story, his sardonic but affectionate view of life. It is a commendable effort to tell something serious through fun and laughter. But in fact the author has tried to study human characters thrown in difficult and trying circumstances because:
“Man alone suffered so cruelly in the world that he was compelled to invent laughter.”