This essay focuses on Čapek’s favorite topic of Czech national mentality. In Čapek’s opinion the Czech approach to self-representation lacks a sense of humor. The author observes that Czechs do not consider it appropriate to be engaged in humorous activities; humor, in their view, is undignified and vulgar. Instead, they prefer the serious German style and stick to it as much as possible. Čapek contrasts humor with irony and satire and argues that both attempt to get beyond and above issues. He coins the so-called pure humor, which he essentially considers democratic. Being ready for humorous approach means to him being open to the others, being ready for a change, and having some amount of self-skepticism instead of carefully built and guarded ego.
Debates on national mentalities and traits were quite frequent in the Czech context during the 1920’s. Americans were viewed as strong and muscular, while Europeans weak intellectuals; such descriptions were repeated over and over. Sense for humor was probably truly absent in the Czech context of that time; Hašek’s novel The Good Soldier Švejk, published 1921-1923, was considered trivial and popular literature due to its humorous nature. „Black humor“ and bitter irony developed by Kafka, Meyrink, Hašek, Poláček and others were to be discovered later.