Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Irony, in the broadest sense of that term, refers to any perception of the difference between the way things are and the way things seem. In “Edward and God,” the plot turns on the real consequences of a pretended belief, and the story’s theme on Edward’s real longing for a God he considers unreal.

However, Kundera’s narrative technique also depends on a use of dramatic irony: the contrast between his narrator’s insight into motives and events, and Edward’s own painful if sometimes inspired blundering. Thus, the narrator’s description of how Edward sees his teaching duties as being “among the fortuitous aspects of his life,” something “attached to him like a false beard,” foreshadows Edward’s own later dissatisfaction with the “unessential.” Similarly, Alice is first introduced into the story with language that looks ahead to Edward’s own later disillusionment with her: “In his new place of work Edward soon found a young girl who struck him as beautiful, and he began to pursue her with a seriousness that was almost genuine.”

Far more clearly than Edward as the reader first encounters him, the narrator can see through the behavior of the story’s characters to its actual sources. For example, the narrator realizes that the extreme and opposing attitudes toward religion taken up by Alice and the director have a common psychological source, the desire to align with one’s own side against the enemy and so preserve the sense of one’s own superiority. In the course of the story, however, Edward’s insight into his own motives improves. During his final fight with Alice, for example, he realizes that his disgust is partly with himself, and that “even the shadow that mocks remains a shadow. . . nothing more.” Edward, in other words, seems on his way to being able to write a story like “Edward and God.”