to gain insight on how the narrator truly feels about his profession. Though he sounds proud to have “mastered the art of infectious laughter” (1), there is an underlying sense of loss and sadness at being identified as a laugher. Though he enjoys the money and the recognition, being known as a laugher – and a good one – has taken its toll on his life. He admits that “[his] wife has also forgotten how to laugh” (2). Since this is in first person, it comes across as almost a confession to his readers. If his wife has “also forgotten,” it implies that he must have laughed for pleasure before, but he, too, has now forgotten how. Böll’s de cision to use first person point of view allows readers to feel the sadness the narrator has about being known as a laugher. It has caused him to ultimately lose a sense of himself. Another example of how Böll shows that labels suffocate identity is through characterization. When the narrator is describing himself, he focuses only on a job description. He claims that he is the best at what he does and that “[he has] become indispensable” (1). This exemplifies characterization in that the narrator is very confident and has convinced himself that no one can do what he can. Since he is labeled as a laugher, he does not express his true self to many people. It is clear that he identifies his job as who he is. In conclusion, Bö ll’s use of point of view, characterization, and irony demonstrates that one’s identity can be stolen by labels given by society. The main character only identifies himself by his job description instead of providing readers with any real personal characteristics. It is ironic that he makes everyone else laugh when he himself does not know his own laugh. Being known as a laugher has effectively erased his personality. Böll successfully shows readers that when a person allows society to label him, he loses his own identity. This story is a reminder that people should not let society hold them back from expressing their true selves.
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