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Authors use irony to convey in meaning the opposite of the message that they convey in words. It is a stylistic device that piques the interest of the reader by adding tone and atmosphere to the plot. It also adds an element of comedy when applied to otherwise tense situations.
In Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery", irony is evident from the start, where the author starts off the story with an uplifting description
On a warm summer day, villagers gather in a town square to participate in a lottery. The village is small with about 300 residents and they are in an excited but anxious mood.
This anxious mood is further described with almost positive undertones; as if the people were waiting for a sports team to play, or for a concert to be performed. Instead, they are actually about to perform the barbaric tradition of killing one of their own; a tradition that is old, and none of the villagers can fully justify.
Irony continues with the seemingly civilized way in which the town comes together, families, neighbors, and the village elders, to carefully proceed with the ancient protocol of the lottery: They help each other carry the rocks, they bring the old box, the pass paper for the ballots, and they even sign up dully as expected. Even the kids are all for it!
Bobby and Harry Jones and Dickie Delacroix[...] eventually made a great pile of stones in one corner of the square and guarded it against the raids of the other boys.
All this is done in order, and "hoping to be done before lunch". It is hard for the reader to remember that all of these organized events will be leading to the horrors of stoning; a barbaric death penalty that hardly matches the seemingly polished manners of the villagers.
Another irony is the way that the villagers blindly accept the lottery without even wincing. There is no rebellion against it, with the small exception of the end, where Tess Hutchinson says the words:
“It isn’t fair, it isn’t right”
Concisely, the main irony in "The Lottery'" is the casual and matter-of-fact way that Jackson relates how regular people can blindly accept and adopt practices that are not just unthinkable but barbaric, without questioning anything.
In Fernando Sorrentino's "A Drama of our Time" the irony also starts out at the beginning, where Sorrentino narrates the start of the story the way he would narrate the beginning of a possible romance.
I looked up. On one of the balconies of the building facing mine, at the same height as my own apartment, I spied a young woman. I raised a hand and waved. She waved back and left the balcony.
The reader already knows that the narrator is a college professor, a well-read man, and a busy one at that. There is no indication that this character is anything but righteous and, the fact that a girl is looking at him with interest, makes one kind of root for him.
However, things begin to change. The professor tries to make contact with the young lady and runs to his balcony to spot her from a distance. An awkward non-verbal messaging starts, with him trying to ask her if he can call her. This is when we start seeing the true colors of the professor when he says:
Bitch! How could she not understand?
Not such a well-spoken man after all. Moreover, the choices that he continues to make to try and make contact with the girl become increasingly weird. He unplugs his own phone to take it out and show it to her, and calls her an "airhead" for "not getting it".
The story becomes more strange as it goes. The girl "air-writes" the phone number and he calls it only to get a strange character on the other side with a very strange accent providing a comical element to the story with his:
in a very deep voice. After noticing that he does not even know who to ask for, the professor calls a friend who is also dimwitted, asks him to look up who the number belongs to and, when he gets the name of the woman, he calls back that number. According to multiple attempts the family about whom he is asking does not even live there, and the man on the phone lies multiple times about the number of years ago that the family had moved away.
Now, the purpose of the narrator is no longer to meet the girl, but to annoy the caller. He finally gets away with this by mocking an accent, concocting a story, and tapping on the rage of the caller.
Da wast time I wanted to shoot myself in da head I accidentawwy killed a penguin dat was in da Antawktic, señor Castewussi."
Incredibly, which is a huge irony, the story made sense to the man on the phone, who exploded with expletives, racist comments, and threats to the caller (the narrator). Remember that the narrator made up the whole story about the penguin killer. It is highly ironic that he has guessed so correctly.
In both stories, irony is illustrated through human behavior. People who are civilized, educated, and seemingly "normal" are capable of the oddest and most bizarre behaviors. They can make awkward choices; they can make horrible choices, in fact. They are just as feeble as any other living creature. The fact that they have a mind does not mean that they will use it; they can be just as mediocre and their common sense can be questioned.
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