The Story of An Hour

Short stories that fall into the category of realism often display extreme cases of irony in different forms. In the short story “The Story of An Hour” dramatic irony is portrayed while in the short stories, “Neighbors” and “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”, situational irony is prevalent. Situational irony teases a reader’s natural tendency to foreshadow by adding an unexpected twist to the conclusion of the story. Dramatic irony takes place when insight is provided to the reader that the characters are unaware of. The vivid descriptions of a realistic story allow the reader to identify with the character and give the reader an emotional attachment to the events of the story. Therefore, irony creates a heavier impact.

In “Neighbors”, Raymond Carver contrasts the lifestyles of two couples. The Stones are a more privileged couple who mix business with pleasure and take vacations at will. Their neighbors, the Millers, are a less fortunate couple who watch over the Stone’s cat in their absence. While on one of their many excursions, the Stones ask the Millers to once again watch over their cat. With access to all of the Stones’ possessions, the Millers develop an abnormal obsession with the alternate lifestyle. They constantly find themselves eager to feed the cat and satisfy their curiosities as to the contents of the Stones’ apartment. The story closes as the Millers are locked out of the apartment that they adore so much. The Millers find themselves longing to be with the possessions that are so close yet so far from their grasp. The reader feels the emotions of this grief stricken couple. This unexpected corner is a perfect example of situational irony.

Another example of situational irony is viewed in, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce. This short story is not in chronological order, skipping back

and forth to the events that eventually lead up to the main character’s execution. The man begins hallucinating just before he is hung from the Owl Creek Bridge and sees himself in a valiant escape from his captors. Eventually he sees himself in the presence of his wife and children at his home. The story is written as if he is actually escaping and the reader believes that he has made it home until they reach the final sentence. “Peyton Farquhar was dead, his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek Bridge” (Bierce-208). This final sentence provides the story with situational irony.

In Kate Chopin’s, “The Story of an Hour”, a different kind of irony is seen. Upon the news of her husband’s death, Mrs. Mallard, rushes to her room to mourn. Inside the room, she recaps the events of her marriage and summates that she views her bond to her husband as a burden. With this new discovery, Mrs. Mallard is liberated and rejoices at the fact that she will now live an independent life for herself. When her husband comes home in perfect health, Mrs. Mallard falls from an extreme happiness to complete sorrow at the fact that she will have to continue living in this entrapment. This sorrow kills Mrs. Mallard within seconds of viewing her husband. Her peers believe “...she had died of heart disease-of joy that kills” (Chopin-297). The dramatic irony is that the reader is aware of the actual cause of her death whereas the characters in the story are not.

In conclusion, these stories demonstrate the large role that irony takes in realism. All of these works of literature expose the reader to a world in which they can identify and issue twists that vastly stray from the ordinary and leave the reader gasping for breath. This element of fiction is a curveball to all that is expected and provides a never-

ending sense of paranoia. Irony allows these placid stories to transform into infamous tales which will live in our memories forever.

Jacobs, Henry E., and Edgar V. Roberts. Literature, An Introduction to Reading and
Writing. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, Inc., 2003.