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The hangover 2


The lovable scoundrel

The four friends get on the hotel roof to start the night. They make two toasts. The first guy, cautious, calls the Vegas bachelor party ‘a minor speed-bump on the road to marriage.’ Conformists talk this way, afraid to call a spade a spade. But the euphemism comically points to what it attempts to conceal. He knows bachelor parties are indecent. Before this one starts, he is already doing damage control. – His imagination has already given the lie to his professions of decency. The second, daring, calls it a night to never forget. This is a real toast: A fine speech urging men to drink even as it moderates their desire.

The first has the money. He pays for the party, being very moral. The second knows how to spend it. Comedy puts them together in this way: It shows you a good time at your expense. Comic irony conceals unfunny things behind the funny. It creates misunderstandings to avoid misunderstandings. To say the same again, the poet laughs at his audience quietly. He defers to his audience, being politic… The comedic character standing for the poet hides in plain sight.

In the story, he appears as a daring man. His daring is promptly punished. The friends wake up in a haze, having forgotten the previous night. They are shocked at what has come of them: They never knew they had it in them… They must have been doing very immoral things, which they have conveniently forgotten. It is our good fortune that they have turned out to be naughty… But in order for the marriage to happen, there must be a bridegroom, which there is not. Now the three best men have to work their way back from immorality to morality, from forgetfulness to memory, so that they find the bridegroom.

The playboy has gone too far. He thought he could have the excitement without the punishment. But laws are nothing if not vengeful. Who trifles with them will have hell to pay, ultimately. A Monday-to-Friday high-school teacher does not a weekend playboy make. He is, as it turns out, married, too. But I daresay this is a rather popular, an instructive illusion. His punishment is merely that he right wrongs, which he is loath to do, because it can be as dangerous, not to say illegal, as doing wrong. We call this poetic justice. Everything the decent man feared has come to be. It turns out he cannot undo it all, so he must turn to the others. Our daring man, however, thinks one good turn deserves another. Now, he must upstage poetic justice: He must prove that the unjust man can very well be the just man.