In "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry, what is the irony of describing Madame Sofronie as "large, too white, chilly," of and that she "hardly looked the "Sofronie"?
In the story, the irony is that Madame Sofronie does not live up to the possibilities in her name. Due to the foreign character of the name 'Sofronie,' images of elegance or even mystery come to mind when we imagine what the proprietor is like. Perhaps, part of this is due to our presumptions and preconceived notions about names.
When Della meets her, Madame Sofronie is 'large, too white, chilly.' In other words, she is unfriendly, overweight, and definitely very common. She exhibits neither charm nor manners. The pretty Della receives a cold reception from Madame Sofronie. Because Della is also poor, the hair dealer thinks that she can get away with her contemptuous treatment of the young woman. Her very abrupt 'Take yer hat off and let’s have a sight at the look's of it' is both business-like as well as patronizing. Her brusque manner demonstrates her petty attitude and her callous disregard for her customer. Madame Sofronie hardly looks 'the Sofronie' to Della, and she doesn't seem to care.
Her practiced business acumen leads her to announce that she will only give Della twenty dollars for her beautiful brown hair. Della has no choice but to accept the offer. Madame Sofronie is the complete opposite of everything her name implies; therein lies the irony.