The Princess Bride Essay Questions

Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Much of the humor found in The Princess Bride is derived from extensive use of irony. Identify at least three examples of irony in the novel.

    Prince Humperdinck prizes the animals he has collected for his Zoo of Death above all else, taking great pains to keep the animals not just alive, but maintaining their finest traits. The irony here being one of the more obvious examples: keeping animals healthy in order to hunt them down and kill them. The ironic circumstance in this example is even played off against itself through Inigo’s assisting the Man in the Black at the Cliffs of Insanity even those his purpose is to kill him. One might argue that an oppositional use of irony is demonstrated by Fezzik’s great ease in overpowering all his opponents when the truth is that he does not even like fighting. A more subtle form ironic humor occurs at the moment that the Buttercup learns that both cups had contained iocane powder in Wesley’s face-off against the Sicilian. The irony here is based predominantly on the narrative of that showdown being so drawn out for suspends when in fact there was never any danger to the Man in Black.

  2. 2

    “William Goldman’s” encounter with Hollywood starlet Sandy Sterling in the opening sequence before the story proper begins seems to exist as a character specifically for the purpose of drawing an analogy with the Buttercup and the way both woman are judged on their physical appearance. Some have suggested that these two females—along with the unflattering portrait of the fictional “William Goldman’s” wife indicate a strain of misogyny at work in the writing of the real life William Goldman. How might this argument be refuted?

    Sandy Sterling—who is every bit as much a fictional character as Buttercup—unquestionably attracts the attention of “William Goldman” due to her starlet good looks. If this value was the only aspect by which the reader could make a judgment on her character, then there might be substance to the suggestion that Goldman is misogynistic. In fact, Sandy Sterling ultimately reveals inner nature without prompting by “William Goldman” to be insincere and ruthless in both her ambition and her comfort in using her good looks to further that ambition. The analogy being drawn with Buttercup is therefore one of contrast and not comparison: Buttercup may be equally beautiful, but she not only reveals her character to be better than Sandy Sterling’s, but her intellect to be superior to both Humperdinck and Rugen. Any assumptions of misogyny that are centered upon the way William Goldman portrays Buttercup are widely misplaced and easily refuted.

  3. 3

    The Princess Bride is billed as “A Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure” which situates the love story of Buttercup and Westley at its center. Support the argument that despite this, Inigo Montoya’s lifelong pursuit of revenge ultimately takes its rightful place as the true heart of the novel.

    The overarching theme that drives The Princess Bride is the lesson that little Billy Goldman learns one day: life isn’t fair. The argument can certainly be made that the romance of the two leading characters reflect this theme since Buttercup must endure the very real emotional trauma of believing that Westley has died. On the other hand, Westley did not die and he get the chance to come back from the dead and pursue happily ever after with Buttercup. By contrast, Inigo’s father is dead and is never coming back and the only alternative to a magical resurrection that makes life a bit fairer for Buttercup than most is his successful quest for revenge. And even that success nevertheless does not go exactly as as he had planned. It must be admitted that, ultimately, Inigo’s passion for gain a measure of justice for his murdered father runs deeper and burns brighter than the passion exhibited between Buttercup and Westley. By the time he finally does manage to extract his revenge, he has become the personification of the metaphor that life is not fair.