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In the story "The Lost Beautifulness" by Anzia Yezierska, the greatest irony occurs at the end of the story.
Hanneh has saved her pennies over the years by doing extra laundry for her employer Mrs. Preston, who is very wealthy. She uses the money to pay for paint so that she can paint her kitchen white. Hanneh does this so that when her son returns from the war, he will have a beautiful place to bring his friends.
Hanneh's husband complains about the waste of money, but when the kitchen is finished, Hanneh is amazed and gratified by just how gorgeous the kitchen is. It is as if it has a life of its own. When she shows it to her friends and neighbors, they, too, are overwhelmed by the kitchen's beauty. Creating something of beauty has been a life-changing experience for this poverty-stricken woman. She has accomplished something she would never have imagined she had the skill to do.
When the landlord sees what a beautiful job she has done, he raises Hanneh's rent not once, but twice. She is devastated. She scrimps to pay the first increase, even going without food, however, she cannot manage to pay the second increase.
The landlord takes her to court, and the court evicts her because she cannot pay the rent.
When Hanneh returns home—a broken woman—she shares her grief with the butcher. He suggests that she should not leave the beauty she has created so that the landlord can make money off of her hard work. He suggests that she destroy the kitchen.
In a fit of rage, this is just what Hanneh does. The irony is that she destroys the kitchen to punish the landlord and rob him of the beauty of the room, however, the truth is that she really has punished herself: she has destroyed the beauty she created, and she feels as if she has also destroyed her own soul.
The beauty of the kitchen made no difference to the landlord for the sake of the beauty itself. Its value came in the form of increased rent. For Hanneh, the beauty was something that changed her life and the way she saw the world and herself. In demolishing the kitchen, she harmed herself more than anyone else.
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