Date of Award

January 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Christopher Nelson


Trickster humor is ubiquitous. Every society has some version of trickster and each society tells the stories of trickster over and over again to both enlighten and entertain. This thesis argues that trickster humor plays a fundamental role in helping society adapt by challenging social norms. Because trickster stories are humorous they are entertaining, because they critique social behaviors they are instructive. Tricksters break social rules, leaving society to remake them. This thesis examines the works of American Humorists Tom Robbins and Edward Abbey, particularly Still Life with Woodpecker and The Monkey Wrench Gang, arguing that these authors are contemporary trickster figures whose work not only entertains their audience but through their rule breaking offers them new possibilities in dealing with the unresolved conflicts American society is wrestling with in the last quarter of the twentieth century and beyond.