Deconstruction as a Serious Joke
To get you ready to read Deconstructively, read and then reread these short dialogues between pilots and mechanics. I do not vouch for their truthfulness because they come from an Internet joke site (http://www.ajokeaday.com), but they serve our purposes, like the game of tic-tac-toe, as tiny examples of texts that deconstruct.
They have been selected because they seem funny, but a Deconstructive critic can explain why they are funny and demonstrate how they subvert a dominant ideology that sought to ground the Problems' description of reality in structuring rules that the pilots assumed were stable. (Hint: don't do this at parties or it will give the English Major a bad name.) In many cases, the mechanics' readings of the pilots' Problems exposes a way to subvert the meaning of one or more words in the Problem so that it appears to mean something other than its author intended. Those words' signifiers (e.g., "mouse") are thereby shown to have generated new signifiers (i.e., "rodent") that have completely different signifieds from those assumed to apply to the original signifier (i.e."computer pointing device"). The Solution responds to the meaning generated by the deconstructed Problem rather than to its original "privileged" meaning. If you can explain how some of these works, they will teach you to read Deconstructively.
"What," you may ask, "is the ideology that the Mechanics' replies are subverting?" Which is the "privileged" position in the
binary opposition? What do the Mechanics' replies do to that assumption? Marxists often use deconstructive analysis to do the same thing in poems, plays, and prose fiction that appears to serve the capitalist, consumerist, classist ideologies of the dominant culture. Now, let's read some jokes.
After every flight, pilots fill out a form
called a gripe sheet, which
conveys to the mechanics problems encountered with the aircraft during
the flight that need repair or correction. The mechanics read and correct
the problem, and then respond in writing on the lower half of the form
what remedial action was taken, and the pilot reviews the gripe sheets
before the next flight.
Never let it be said that ground crews and engineers lack a sense of
Here are some actual logged maintenance complaints and problems as
submitted by Qantas pilots and the solution recorded by maintenance
(P = the problem logged by the pilot.)
(S = the solution and action taken by the engineers.)
P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.
P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.
P: Something loose in cockpit.
S: Something tightened in cockpit.
P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.
P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.
P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.
P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.
P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That's what they're there for.
P: IFF inoperative.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.
P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you're right.
P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.
P: Aircraft handles funny.
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.
P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.
P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.
P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding
on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from midget.