In all three works of literature, “Miss Brill,” “The Necklace,” and “The Story of an Hour,” the authors utilized an abundant amount of irony to capture the audience’s attention, to make them interested in the topic that is being talked about, to emphasize the central idea, and to cause them to stop and process what has just been said.
In the short story, “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield, irony is implemented by Miss Brill who is a woman that judged another woman wearing the fur toque, while not knowing that someone could be judging her in the same manner. In addition to this, Miss Brill was judging the woman that was rejected yet she was lonely herself. To add, Miss Brill nicknamed the young couple as romantic heroes when in actuality, they were villains. (Sexton, n.d.)
As Miss Brill sits in the public garden, she watches a woman in an ermine toque and a gentleman in a suit meet, assuming it was planned. Miss Brill carefully observes the woman’s demeanor and judges her hair, face, and eyes being the same color as her shabby ermine. She sees the woman delighted and pleased to see the gentleman. As the gentleman shook his head and lit a cigarette, he breathed a puff of smoke into the woman’s face as she was still talking to him and simply walked away and left. The woman kept a mighty smile on her face and she too left. The irony in this section of the story is that Miss Brill examines how the woman was completely rejected by this “gentleman” in a suit because of how shabby and old, and plain she appeared. However, Miss Brill doesn’t put into thought that exactly how she is opinionating and believing why the man didn’t want her, someone else could be thinking in that manner of her and how she clothes herself with her fur… her dear little thing. “She had taken it out of its box that afternoon, shaken out the moth-powder, given it a good brush, and rubbed the life back into the dim little eyes” (Mansfield, 1920). This quote goes to say that Miss Brill’s precious fur is so old and dusty that she has to shake out the moth powder, brush it, and rub the life back into its eyes, illustrating that the fur most likely does not even smell too marvelous which gives way for people to judge her as well. Thus, if she were to think beyond her thoughts and confidence, she would be able to realize that she would not want to be spoken of or thought about as she is doing so with the woman that was rejected. Also, to expand on that idea, the irony in the same situation with the woman and the man in the suit.
Miss Brill is sitting and watching as the man in the suit leaves the woman with the shabby ermine by herself. In the same way as said previously, Miss Brill is judging her and assuming reasons for which the man left the woman alone. Be that as it may, Miss Brill does not seem to realize that she too is lonely because she does not have anyone to go to the garden with or talk to. “What has been happening to me?’ said the sad little eyes. Oh, how sweet it was to see them snap at her again from the red eiderdown” (Mansfield, 1920). This quote is an example of dramatic irony, where the reader understands that she is lonely because in the beginning of the story, she acts as though her fur is some sort of animal that is interacting with her. Coupled with the fact that Miss Brill walks to the public garden by herself every single Sunday, only to eavesdrop into every single conversation she could possibly hear. To be honest, according to her weekly actions, Miss Brill is very lonely and she attempts to include herself and her opinions into the eavesdropped conversations even though it is to herself that she says those opinions.
Moreover, in Miss Brill’s loneliness at the garden, she envisioned everyone who was present as if they were all a part of one enormous theatrical play. She also believed that she was an actress too and that they were all on the stage acting. Though, it is clear to the reader that she was honored in the fact that she too had a part in the play. “Even she had a part and came every Sunday. No doubt somebody would have noticed if she hadn’t been there…” (Mansfield, 1920).
Miss Brill had a feeling of importance, value, and being desired which inflated her ego meter and confidence and happiness. She even imagined that “the old invalid gentleman to whom she read the newspaper four afternoons a week while he slept in the garden… suddenly knew he was having the paper read to him by an actress!” (Mansfield, 1920). In the whole imaginary play, Miss Brill is just creating a fantasy, a fake sense of self confidence that could potentially hurt her in the near future.
The last set of people that Miss Brill listened to were a young couple that were both dressed very nicely. Meanwhile, Miss Brill, still in her fantasy theatrical play, assigns roles to both the young girl and boy. She called them the hero and heroine, whom were arriving from the boy’s father’s yacht (Mansfield, 1920). After Miss Brill assigned the roles to her “actors”, she got her ears ready to listen to the young couple’s conversation. However, as she begins to listen to their words, she hears the girl say that she didn’t want to say what she wanted to say because of Miss Brill obviously listening to what they were saying. The boy goes on to say, “But why? Because of that stupid old thing there…why does she come here at all⸺ who wants her?… ‘it’s her fur which is so funny,’ giggled the girl. ’It’s exactly like fried whiting”. (Mansfield, 1920). So, there are two instances of irony here. One of them is when she was honored in the fact that she had a part in the play and that there was no doubt someone wouldn’t have noticed if she wasn’t there. It is ironic because the young boy had insulted her, calling her stupid and old and asking why she was there when she should’ve been home and not listening in on the conversation between him and his girlfriend. Also, on the contrary, was when Miss Brill thought she was important and had value as a person. To top it off, the girl starts giggling about Miss Brill’s fur, comparing it exactly to a fried whiting. Overall, making the ironic statement that the young couples were not heroes, rather they were villains.
It is also ironic how with the last set of people that Miss Brill was going to listen to, she was thinking on the bright side of her judgement comparing the young couple to the heroes and them knocking her down and making her feel sad, bringing her to the true knowledge that she is old and lonely. Meanwhile, she was complaining about everyone else she heard of and being judgmental and no one told her anything about it. She started out happy in a way and ended up sad and alone.
In the short story, “The Story of An Hour” by Kate Chopin, irony is implemented when the atmosphere is completely different to the tragic news that has just been given. Plus, Mrs. Mallards sister worried thinking that she making herself sick from the news but she’s actually celebrating. To add, when Mrs. Mallard dies, everyone thinks it’s out of joy but the reason was the complete opposite.
Mrs. Mallard is a wife who has heart trouble and every person that is close to her, including her sister Josephine, are trying to break it to her as gently as they can, the fact that her husband Brently Mallard has died in a railroad disaster. As soon as Louise received the news, she wept at once and went up to her room wanting to be left alone and for no one to follow her. As she goes into her room she sits down on a comfortable arm chair by her open window and slouching in physical exhaustion because all the information she was just given (Choppin, 1894). “She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air… and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves” (Choppin, 1894). This quote expresses the way the setting and the news are ironic and not coinciding as they should be. Usually, in a story when someone dies or something unpleasant happens, the setting goes along with it. For example, when a couple of a long-time relationship breaks up because either one is moving away or the other is cheating. The whole tone of story changes to what the character is feeling at that precise moment. Instead of In a story everything has to work together in conjunction to make sense so that the reader may understand and be captivated or interested in the story. In the case of The Story of An Hour, normally, it would be pouring rain, the day as dark as can be, with icy cold wind blowing outside to give it the same feel of what the event was. However, obviously there is a reason behind the irony of the contrast of setting and tone to which the author has purposefully made in order for the reader question why the setting and tone aren’t working together as they should. Then is when the author reveals the reason why he made that specific distinction.
Onto the next, Mrs. Mallards sister was worried that she was making her self sick when she was actually realizing and celebrating the fact that she is now free from the oppressive life she was living and the unhappy marriage she had with her late husband.