Irony and surprise are common literary devices authors use to communicate their ideas when writing literary works. Irony allows the writer to suggest an interpretation that is different from the literal meaning of the words used in the text. The element of surprise allows the writer to manipulate the reader’s expectations and take them somewhere completely different. In the short stories, A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flanney O’Connor and Happy Endings by Margaret Atwood, both authors use the element of irony and surprise to engage readers and to develop deeper levels of meaning in their text.
In A Good Man is Hard to Find, O’connor uses several kinds of irony to communicate her message about the human condition. The foreshadowing of irony is established in the very beginning of the story when she gives us the reason for the grandmother getting dressed for the car ride. “In case of an accident anyone seeing the dead on the highway would know at once that she was lady. ” The grandma is a character that is narrow-minded, ignorant, and critical of others but not of herself. She has the idea that the goodness of a person can be determined by their physical appearance and outward behavior.
After the car crash,the Misfit makes an appearance and the grandmother recognizes the Misfit. His politeness, which is sincere but also done to put the family at ease, draws out the grandmother’s assessment of the Misfit: “Listen,” the grandmother almost screamed, “I know you’re a good man. You don’t look a bit like you have common blood. I know you must come from nice people! ” At the beginning of the story, her opinion about the Misfit is quite the contrary but realizing the Misfit intends harm, she changes her opinion to save herself.
The dramatic irony occurs towards the end of the story when the grandma who has been superficial till this point, is in her final moments alone with the Misfit and is able make sense of everything that has gone wrong in her life. She has an epiphany and feels sympathy for the Misfit as “one of [her] own children. ” She is showing that she has found the ability to see others with compassion and kindness but this consciousness is immediately followed by three bullets to her chest. In Happy Ending by Margaret Atwood, we can trace the irony in the story’s title in relation to its content.
In story A, we are given a perfect story of what an ideal marriage should be but the John and Mary still die and that is not a happy ending. Atwood challenges the reader to engage with all that happens in the middle because the journey is the interesting part In story A, John and Mary appear to be happy because they possess the ideal elements to a happy lifestyle: fabulous jobs, money, children, a large home, and personal luxuries. However, at the end of the story, they just die and the story comes to an end.
As the stories progress, the characters’ lives become a bit more complicated, but they still always end up at story A, and they die in the end. At the end. By the end, all one can say is the fact of what has happened, not the “how” or the “why” of the situation. In story A, how do all these things make the couple happy. Why? They’re really not happy at all and have no actual story to tell. A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flanney O’Connor and Happy Endings by Margaret Atwood, both authors use the element of surprise to manipulate the reader’s expectation.
In A Good Man Is Hard to Find, the contribution of surprise can be traced in the plot line. The story strings the reader along in believing it is about a comedic family vacation with funny situations that happen along the way. We reach a turning point when the family car crashes and encounters the Misfit, everyone dies of a tragic death that is caused by the grandma. In Happy Endings ,the title misleads the reader in assuming the story would have a happy ending but in fact every ending leads to death.
A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flanney O’Connor and Happy Endings by Margaret Atwood, both authors use irony to reveal the less obvious truths about the human condition. Both authors use the element of surprise is use to take the readers down an unexpected path. Both of the short stories integrate the elements of irony and surprise seamlessly in their works. I personally enjoyed reading and analyzing A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flanney O’Connor more than the other one because it is a higher quality story with a richer plot line and character development. The story is crafted beautifully.
Courtney from Study Moose
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