Irony is a useful device for giving stories many unexpected twists and turns. In Kate Chopin’s “ The Story of an Hour,” irony is used as an effective literary device. Situational irony is used to show the reader that what is expected to happen sometimes doesn’t. Dramatic irony is used to clue the reader in on something that is happening that the characters in the story do not know about. Irony is used throughout Chopin’s “ The Story of an Hour” through the use of situational irony and the use of dramatic irony. A very dull and boring story can be made into a great story simply by adding in something that is unexpected to happen.
When the unexpected is used in literature it is known as irony. An author uses irony to shock the reader by adding a twist to the story. The author of “ The Story of an Hour” is Kate Chopin. Her use of irony in the story is incredibly done more than once. Each of the stories in Dubliners consists of a portrait in which Dublin contributes to the dehumanizing experience of modem life. The boy in the story “ Araby” is intensely subject to the city’s dark, hopeless conformity, and his tragic yearning toward the exotic in the face of drab, ugly reality forms the center of the story.
On its simplest level, “ Araby” is a story about a boy’s first love. On a deeper level, however, it is a story about the world in which he lives a world inimical to ideals and dreams. This deeper level is introduced and developed in several scenes: the opening description of the boy’s street, his house, his relationship to his aunt and uncle, the information about the priest and his belongings, the boy’s two trips-his walks through Dublin shopping and his subsequent ride to Araby. North Richmond Street is described metaphorically and presents the reader with his first view of the boy’s world.
The street is “ blind”; it is a dead end, yet its inhabitants are smugly complacent; the houses reflect the attitudes of their inhabitants. The houses are “ imperturbable” in the “ quiet,” the “ cold,” the “ dark muddy lanes” and “ dark dripping gardens. ” The first use of situational irony is introduced here, because anyone who is aware, who is not spiritually blinded or asleep, would feel oppressed and endangered by North Richmond Street. The people who live there represented by the boy’s aunt and uncle are not threatened however are falsely pious and discreetly but deeply self-satisfied.
Their prejudice is dramatized by the aunt’s hopes that Araby, the bazaar the boy wants to visit, is not some “ Freemason affair,” and by old Mrs. Mercer’s gossiping over tea while collecting stamps for “ some pious purpose. ” The background or world of blindness extends from a general view of the street and its inhabitants to the boy’s personal relationships. It is not a generation gap but a gap in the spirit, in empathy and conscious caring that results in the uncle’s failure to arrive home in time for the boy to go to the bazaar while it is still open.
The uncle has no doubt been to the local pub, negligent and indifferent to the boy’s anguish and impatience. The boy waits well into the evening in the “ imperturbable” house with its musty smell and old, useless objects that fill the rooms. The house, like the aunt and uncle, as well as the entire neighborhood, reflects people who are well intentioned but narrow in their views and blind to higher values. Take for example, even the street lamps lift a “ feeble” light to the sky. The total effect of such setting is an atmosphere permeated with stagnation and isolation.
The second use of symbolic description-that of the dead priest and his belongings-suggests remnants of a more vital past. The bicycle pump rusting in the rain in the back yard and the old yellowed books in the back room indicate that the priest once actively engaged in real service to God and man, and further, from the titles of the books, that he was a person given to both piety and flights of imagination. But the priest is dead; his pump rusts; his books yellow. The effect is to deepen, through a sense of a dead past, the spiritual and intellectual stagnation of the present.
Into this atmosphere of spiritual paralysis the boy bears, with blind hopes and romantic dreams, his encounter with first love. In the face of ugly, drab reality-“ amid the curses of laborers,” “ jostled by drunken men and bargaining women”-he carries his aunt’s parcels as she shops in the market place, imagining that he bears, not parcels, but a “ chalice through a throng of foes. ” The “ noises converged in a single sensation of life” and in a blending of Romantic and Christian symbols he transforms in his mind a perfectly ordinary girl into an enchanted princess: untouchable, promising, saintly.
Setting in this scene depicts the harsh, dirty reality of life which the boy blindly ignores. The contrast between the real and the boy’s dreams is ironically drawn and clearly foreshadows the boy’s inability to keep the dream, to remain blind. The boy’s final disappointment occurs as a result of his awakening to the world around him. The tawdry superficiality of the bazaar, which in his mind had been an “ Oriental enchantment,” strips away his blindness and leaves him alone with the realization that life and love differ from the dream.
Araby, the symbolic temple of love, is profane. The bazaar is dark and empty; it thrives on the same profit motive as the market place (“ two men were counting money on a salver”); love is represented as an empty, passing flirtation. “ Araby” is a story of first love; even more, it is a portrait of a world that defies the ideal and the dream. Thus setting in this story becomes the true subject, embodying an atmosphere of spiritual paralysis against which a young boy’s idealistic dreams are no match. Realizing this, the boy takes his first step into adulthood.
Kate Chopin employs the tool of irony in The Story of an Hour to illustrate the problem relative to marital relationships in which one individual imposes his private will upon the other. She presents, through the story of Mrs. Mallard, an issue not socially accepted at the end of the 19th century. This is the story of Mrs. Mallard, a woman with a heart condition who finds out her husband has died in a train accident. She reacts with sadness at first, but after seeking solitude, realizes that she is free. She is ready to begin her new life when her husband, who was not involved in the train accident, comes home alive.
The woman dies from heart failure on the spot. The purpose of irony in Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour is to convey a message without saying it explicitly. In the context that the story was written, at the end of the 19th century, woman were often not allowed many rights. Their role in society was trifling compared to what men had. Chopin, a feminist ahead of her time, uses irony in this particular story to show the unequal role women had in relationships in the late 1800’s. Mrs. Mallard’s discovery of her long lost freedom and desire to live for herself only comes after her husband’s death.
The ironic tone in the story is employed by Chopin to present a socially unaccepted concept in a more acceptable format. In The Story of an Hour, Chopin makes use of different types of irony. The first type of irony encountered is situational irony, where there is a contrast between what is expected to happen in a particular situation and what actually happens. After grieving with wild abandonment the death of her husband, Mrs. Mallard seeks solitude in her room. Now the reader starts to see the world through her eyes, a world full of new and pure life. As she looks out of the window, she sees spring and all the new life it brings.
The descriptions used now are far away from death. Mrs. Mallard stares out the open window at the new spring life. As for the weather, instead of being gloomy and dark to symbolize death, she sees patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds. She also mentions that birds are singing and there is a delicious breath of rain in the air, all images not usually associated with death. She is expected to mourn her husband’s death, but in contrast, she is thinking about new life. At the end of the story, Chopin uses dramatic irony, where there is a contrast between what the audience knows and what the characters think is happening.
When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease – of joy that kills. The other characters are still unsuspecting of her actual joy in death. They believe her joy corresponds with the love she had for her husband. In contrast, the reader knows that the love she had for her husband pales in comparison to the joy she feels upon the discovery of her newfound freedom. Mrs. Mallard begins to fantasize about living her life for herself. Free, free, free! are the words Mrs. Mallard whispers in her room. Coming from a woman who just lost her husband, one can wonder how was their relationship.
However, Mrs. Mallard clarifies that their relationship is one of love. Brently Mallard had never looked save with love upon her. And likewise, she knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death. However, love does not seem to be the problem here. Regardless of the love she has for her husband Brently Mallard, the problem she sees is the unequal relationship in which one individual exercises their powerful will on the other. Even though at times she had loved him, she is now regaining her freedom.
Another sign that informs the reader of her new liberation is the revelation of her first name. Her name is Louise, she is no longer Mrs. Mallard, she is Louise, she has her own identity because she is free. It is ironic to see that it took Brently Mallard’s death for Louise to realize that she was not Body and soul free! It seems as if she finds personal strength in her husband’s death, ready to face the world as a whole person. Once Louise Mallard recognizes her desire to live for herself, desire that her marriage will not grant her, her heart will not allow her to turn back.
The Story of an Hour is a story of great irony. One that carries a message of hope and freedom. Raymond Carver’s short story, “ Cathedral,” portrays a story in which many in today’s society can relate. We are introduced from the first sentence of the story to a man that seems to be perturbed and agitated. As readers, we are initially unsure to the reasoning’s behind the man’s discomfort. The man, who seems to be a direct portrayal of Raymond Carver himself, shows his ignorance by stereotyping a blind man by the name of Robert, who has come to stay with he and his wife.
From the very beginning, Carver shows his detest for Robert but over the course of the story eases into comfort with him and in the end is taught a lesson from the very one he despised. The story begins with a description of the relation’s between he, his wife and Robert. It is unveiled that Robert employed Raymond Carver’s wife, whose name is never stated, ten years previous by having her read reports and case studies to him since his blindness would not permit him to do it himself. She hadn’t seen him since those days but “ she and the blind man kept in touch. They mailed tapes and sent them back and forth. (506) The story also is set up by briefly describing Carver’s wife’s past relations with her first husband. Their past marital troubles seem to be a main basis for the wife’s and Robert’s extended contact. After this background history, the story then jumps into the present with the Blind man on his way to stay for a night. The blind man is invited to stay with the Carver’s by Raymond’s wife for he has just been through the death of his own wife and is now alone. Even this being the case, Raymond Carver’s distaste for the blind man is evident from the first paragraph on. “ I wasn’t enthusiastic about his visit. He was no ne I knew. And his being blind bothered me. ” (506) Carver’s distaste for Robert is blatantly apparent even subsequent to his arrival at their home. It also becomes quite clear that his wife disapproves of his attitude toward Robert and fails to see how he could be so self-centered. “ My wife finally took her eyes off the blind man and looked at me. I had the feeling she didn’t like what she saw. I shrugged” (509) The other emotion highly present from the beginning is that of the attitude of Robert. We are introduced to what appears to be a quick witted and pleasant man, especially considering the recent death of his wife.
His cheerfulness is established by his referring to Carver as “ Bub” (509) within the first minutes of his arrival. This gesture shows how comfortable Robert is in the setting and also establishes the strong difference between the personality differences of he and Carver. This also creates the main conflict Carver faces in the story in trying to look past his stereotypes and jealousies toward Robert and accepting his company. Carver’s initial views of Robert are indeed evident for not only does he seem jealous but he goes as far as to stereotype Robert due to his blindness. “ He also had a full beard.
But he didn’t use a cane and he didn’t wear dark glasses. I’d always thought dark glasses were a must for the blind. ” (509) This statement shows the author’s ignorance and seems to be just another attempt to find an attribute not to like. He later even refers to Robert’s eyes as “ Creepy. ” (509) The blind man still, though he probably senses Carver’s distaste for him proceeds to be upbeat and try his best to comfort him with his presence. After a large dinner that night the story moves on to the living room where the three are relaxing before heading to bud. They make small talk, smoke, and watch television.
By this point in the story, Carver seems to become somewhat more relaxed to the thought of the blind man in his home. The wife soon nods off and the two men are left briefly to themselves. Robert again tries to ease the discomfort of Carver by making conversation, “ I’ll stay up until you’re ready to turn in. “, the blind man says. “ We haven’t had a chance to talk. I fell like me and her (the wife) been monopolizing the whole evening. ” (512) It is at that point for the first time Carver shows some sense of compassion. “ That’s alright,” he says, “ I’m glad for the company. The two then focus their attention to the television and some middle age show about cathedrals. It is this show from which the author gets the name of this short story, “ Cathedral”. It also is relevant because it gives the blind man the opportunity to share with Carver his state of mind. The blind man sees the TV show as a way for him to express his views to Carver. After inquiring into the show, Robert asks Carver to simply explain what the Cathedral’s look like. Carver does this but soon realizes that he is not doing a very good job. “ I’m not doing so good am I. This doesn’t work so Robert then asks the author if would mind drawing one with him. Carver agrees and leaves to gather supplies. Before long, he returns and they begin their project. We at this point the strong change in interaction between the two characters. The blind man diligently places his hand on that of Carver and they draw, together. The two are intently drawing the cathedral when Robert asks Carver to keep drawing but with his eyes closed too. He obeys and continues this is the climax of the story for Carver now briefly gets a glimpse of what it is like to live with the ailment of blindness.
He is temporarily awed at the feeling for it is one he has obviously never experienced. “ It’ really something”, he says (515) Although it took this lesson, Carver now seems to understand, even if only for a fleeting moment, his own prejudice and feels compassionate with Robert. He begins the story with a quick judgment but ends with a lesson that we can all learn from. The two gentlemen appear seemingly different and in the beginning but learn form one another and in the end grow to indeed appreciate one another. It seems ironic though that although Robert rendered the physical ailment, we see Carver too was blind to many things.