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The Princess Bride

William Goldman

Study Questions

Facts

Quiz

In which genre would you categorize this book and why?

Although William Goldman explains that The Princess Bride is in fact a satire of Florinese history, he takes out all of the purely historical parts, so we cannot call it a historical satire. But the book is intended to be funny, as we can see through the dialogue between characters, as well as in Goldman's cuts and tangents. The book calls itself a "Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure," and although it includes both love and adventure, it defies most stereotypes that would make it classic. As it does poke fun at the basic tenets of love and adventure-both fairy tale components-we may be tempted to call it a folkloric satire. But this excludes our relationship with the author himself, who we know fairly well by the end of his story. So while this book seems to have elements of many genres—satire, folklore, history, love, adventure, autobiography, literary criticism—it does not fall entirely into any single one of them. At its very essence, The Princess Bride rebels against the idea of genre.

How does the story change or benefit from having the Morgenstern text within the Goldman text?

By placing a fictional author at the core of his story, William Goldman allows himself a freedom above that of pure author or pure audience. Since he disclaims having actually written The Princess Bride, he is able to mock it without being self-deprecating, celebrate it without being arrogant, and add his biographical tangents without sounding entirely mad. For us as readers, we learn a method, a new way of appreciating a story, with the understanding that we, like Goldman himself, may do what we like with the story. We may take possession over the story in any way we please, and turn it into anything we can conceive. William Goldman encourages us to do this, and in doing so he allows us the pure pleasure of enjoying a story for story's sake. He also forces us to challenge why certain events happened the way they did, and to imagine what else may have happened in the space left untold by the author. Remaining with his reader all the way through the book, Goldman becomes a character force of his own right, leaving us with a picture of him, as well as for the "fictional" characters, once we have finished reading.

How does Goldman parody historical time in The Princess Bride?

Because we do not know exactly when this story was set, the author explains historical time in terms of inventions and even countdowns. We have no concrete idea of when these events fell, but we can date them on a chart marked with the makings of stew, blue-jeans, Europe, fashion, America and fortunes. They mark the text in an absurd order and are not to be taken seriously but rather to demonstrate that we measure time in events that are of use to us. It does no good for us to know whether Eli Whitney had created the cotton gin, because no use of it arises in this story. But we do need to be reassured that golf-balls had been invented, that Scotland existed, and that wheelbarrows were being used. Likewise, when the exact timing of events becomes important, we are given a minute by minute—at times, second by second—account of everything that happens. This is only when the story's events are contingent upon slight balances and moments such as these, such as during the Princess Noreena episode, or the great castle break-in at the end. In a nutshell, Goldman demonstrates through his motifs of time that history essentially is paving a path leading up to precisely what we want to examine. He parodies the self- serving and often arbitrary nature of record-keeping.

Suggested Essay Questions

What is the use of having Goldman's biographical/publishing-related information as part of this story?

Can you find anything significant in the names of the characters and countries? Does this in any way change the way we read the text?

If the characters were to stand for virtues in the medieval allegorical sense, what would each of the main five represent?

In terms of pure plot, what function is served by having Westley die and come back to life?

What does this book as a whole profess about the nature of reading, writing and literature in general?

Who, ultimately, is the hero/ine of this story, or is there one at all? Explain your answer.

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Look at the clues

by bear19100, April 24, 2013

As you read you found out that the man in black is westley saving buttercup.

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