How is irony used in Maupassant's "The Necklace" and Chopin's "The Story of an Hour," and what effect does it create for readers?
Irony in "The Necklace" mainly centers around the fact that the necklace that Madame Loisel borrowed for the ball and lost was fake and not real. Madame Loisel and her husband worked themselves "to the bone" for 10 years to pay off the diamond necklace that they replaced for Madame Forrestier. The irony is that, after working for 10 years and looking much older than her age, Madame Loisel runs into Madame Forrestier and she tells her that the necklace was only paste.
Irony is also present in "The Story of an Hour." When Mrs. Mallard believes her husband has died, she feels liberated and free, something she has not felt in her marriage. All of the claustrophobia she felt in the marriage begins to disappear after his death. The irony occurs at the end of the story when Mrs. Mallard's husband appears at the doorstep very much alive. When Mrs. Mallard sees him, she is the one who collapses and dies from the shock of his being alive (and some would say the disappointment that he was alive because her freedom would be gone).
The irony in both stories contributes to the surprise endings in both stories.
The irony of both stories is that all the suffering the characters suffered could have been avoided had they been truthful in the first place. Madame Loisel's lesson in humility would not have been so complete, but had she told the truth about the necklace in the first place, her years of toiling and sacrificing her youthful beauty would have been avoided.
Mrs. Mallard may have had a more satisfying life had she and her husband gone to counseling or had she left him earlier in the marriage. As it was, she suffered in silence and then died of shock when he walked through the door very much alive.
I wonder whether another comparison would be the discussion of the position of women in society and the various ways in which they are trapped, limited or restricted. Both Madame Loisel and Mrs. Mallard are trapped in their situations, and to a certain extent they are traps of their own making, because Madame Loisel makes her life worth than it is by her daydreams and Mrs. Mallard chooses to be with her husband.
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Another irony is that M. Loisel got what she wanted for a brief moment. The loss of that thing that brought her fleeting happiness is what destroyed her momentary joy. The loss of something (her husband) is what brought Mrs. Mallard momentary joy, and it was his return that literally took her life.