Max Shulman’s short story, “Love is a Fallacy,” is a very amusing story of a college student and his mistaken beliefs about life and love. The narrator is the protagonist. He is a person with a huge superiority complex, and thinks himself to have a “giant intellect.” Shulman begins the story with the narrator’s loudly proclaimed self-approval, along with his criticism of Petey Bellows, his room-mate at the University. Because of the exaggerated conceit of the narrator, the reader is prepared for the narrator to be taught a lesson.
The narrator’s vocabulary shows that he is an intellectual snob. He is ready to criticize everybody: Bellows has “nothing upstairs,” while Polly Espy has “to be taught to think.” Although the narrator is so conceited, the reader does not criticize him, but is more likely to see him as a comical figure and even to have a little sympathy for him.
Polly Espy is a very amusing character. In the narrator’s eyes, she is the caricature of the ‘dumb blonde. Here again, Shulman gives an exaggerated picture of her supposed lack of intelligence, with her one-word responses to everything, such as “Wow-dow,” “Magnify,” and “Terrific.”
The author uses such an exaggerated characterization of both the narrator and Polly very cleverly to add to the humor of the story. This is a very skillful technique used by Shulman to make his characters show exaggerated characteristics in order to increase the comic appeal of the story. The part where the narrator teaches Polly logic is so funny that the reader laughs out loud.
Although “Love is a Fallacy” is written as a humorous piece, there is a lot of deep meaning underneath the surface. In the case of the narrator, underneath all the conceit, there is a character who is pathetically lonely. When Bellows asks him, “Where have you been?” the narrator replies, “In the library” which is obviously the place where he spends all his time on campus. It is clear that he is a nerd who has no social life or friends. He is not a part of the popular set on the campus. While the reader laughs at his extreme conceit, at the same time, the reader also feels a little sorry for him.
In the same way, the author’s tone suggests that Polly Espy wickedly plays up to the narrator with her dumb responses and reactions to his teaching of logic – batting her eyelashes at the narrator, gasping in wonder at his cleverness and sobbing in sentiment. The reader realizes that Polly is actually having a lot of fun going along with the narrator’s game. She admits, “This is more fun than dancing even.” The reader’s suspicion that Polly is leading the narrator to proves true when she finally uses the narrator’s own course on logical fallacies to turn the tables on him. This is proof that Polly is actually a very smart girl and not the dumb-witted girl of the narrator’s picture.
While giving the reader a lot of entertainment, Shulman also gives the reader a serious lesson on the beauty and variety of life. He shows that life is not dictated by logic. The emotions, likes and dislikes that motivate human behavior are beyond logical explanation. Above all, love cannot be earned through intellectual planning. Love does not belong to the mind, but to the heart. It does not give logical reasons for its choices: the “Keen, calculating” narrator loses Polly, while the “dumb as an oak” Bellows gains her love. In short, Shulman conveys a serious message about love in the most humorous of tones. The reader laughs but also realizes that love is beyond logical analysis.
Shulman, Max. “Love is a Fallacy.” College of Mount Saint Vincent. N.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.