There's a line I saw on a movie.

The scenario is on a funeral, and one of the deceased's family members said that the deceased "did not suffer from the tragedy of perfection." What does it mean?

Based on the translated subtitles, I roughly know it means the deceased was not a perfect person. But why?

  • Welcome to ELL. You heard the line in a movie. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 14 '16 at 11:19
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    @TRomano Could have been a subtitle – Laurent Duval Aug 14 '16 at 11:20
  • @Laurent Duval. It seems that the subtitles were not in English ("Based on the translated subtitles, I roughly know...") and the quoted phrase is in English. We'd still say "in", not "on". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 14 '16 at 11:22
  • It was English subtitles at first. Then I shift to Chinese subtitles to find out what it means. – Jasmine Kuo Aug 20 '16 at 16:08

A perfect funeral punchline, mixing praise, empathy, and irony.

Funerals are occasions of hearing gentle words about the deceased (praise). Whatever the personality of the person. The lack of suffering is often evoked by the audience after a painful disease (empathy).

This line is to me a perfect example of irony, under the rhetoric form of the litotes, which states a point by denying the opposite. A very polite way to say, with a lot of wit, that the deceased was far from perfect, had a lot of failings, and possibly lived quite happily in that situation.

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    I really really want to give you a thumbs up but I haven't reached the standard to do so:( Thank you very much! – Jasmine Kuo Aug 20 '16 at 15:55
  • @Jasmine Kuo Was the line from Dexter? imdb.com/title/tt1242111/synopsis – Laurent Duval Aug 20 '16 at 16:05
  • WOW! It is.How do you know that? – Jasmine Kuo Aug 20 '16 at 16:13
  • I am a serial researcher:) Just want to know the actual sources for my next funeral ceremony. The punchline is so witty – Laurent Duval Aug 20 '16 at 16:21
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    LOL Is it Dexter's(the character) line?"Just want to know the actual sources for my next funeral ceremony. " Feels detached and funny – Jasmine Kuo Aug 21 '16 at 1:27

The obsessive pursuit of "perfection" can indeed be a tragedy, because, roughly speaking, people are generally imperfect and refusing to accept our own limitations (or other people unavoidable flaws) can lead to a miserable life of constant unsatisfaction.

You can find more details under the wikipedia entry for "perfectionism".

You can also consider the well-known aphorism "Perfect is enemy of good".

  • I was told that it means the deceased made some (probably serious) mistakes in his life.When you say someone did not suffer from the tragedy of perfection.Does it mean that he or she doesn't care about being perfect or not even doesn't care about making a few mistakes?Thank you! – Jasmine Kuo Aug 20 '16 at 15:49

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