Explain how verbal, situational, and dramatic irony are expressed throughout "The Necklace."

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Irony permeates this story. Verbal irony occurs when someone says the opposite of what he or she means. In the following sentence, the last part is an example of a kind of verbal irony. The narrator states that Madame Loisel went away with her "treasure."

She flung herself on her friend's breast, embraced her frenziedly, and went away with her treasure.

Of course, the "treasure" is not what Madame Loisel thinks it is. She believes she is borrowing a real diamond necklace, when, in fact, she is borrowing a fake. This demonstrates that her idea of a "treasure" is shallow and superficial: she has no idea of real worth, either when it comes to a necklace or to what is most important in life.

The first part of the above sentence illustrates situational irony, which occurs when a situation works out to be the opposite of what was expected. Here, Madame Loisel shows she is thrilled over a necklace that is about to ruin her life. Rather than make her happy, as she expects, the necklace will make her miserable.

Situational irony occurs again after the Loisels impoverish themselves to replace the necklace. Rather than a gateway into a better life, the beautiful objects and fancy events Madame Loisel crave lead to a life of drudgery:

She came to know the heavy work of the house, the hateful duties of the kitchen. She washed the plates, wearing out her pink nails on the coarse pottery and the bottoms of pans. She washed the dirty linen, the shirts and dishcloths, and hung them out to dry on a string . . .

The chief situational irony, however, occurs when Madame Loisel discovers that the necklace she borrowed was a fake, worth only 500 francs.

As for dramatic irony, which is when the audience knows what the characters do not, I would argue there is none. The entire story pivots on the reader being as surprised as Madame Loisel to find out the necklace is made of paste. 

sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Situational irony results when there is a weird coincidence or unfortunate set of circumstances in a given situation.  Situational irony in this story occurs because Madame Loisel really wants to be in the upper class, but because she insists on borrowing the necklace, she ends up in an even lower class than when she started.

Verbal irony occurs when the speaker what is said is opposite of what is meant.  A common type of verbal irony is sarcasm.  In this story, when Madame Loisel sits to dinner with her husband and says, "Ah, the good soup! I don't know anything better than that," she really means that she is unsatisfied with her dinner.

Dramatic irony is a result of the characters not being aware of their situation.  In these cases, the audience is typically more aware than the characters in the story itself.  However, the moment of realization at the end of the story, when Madame Loisel and the audience discover at the same time that the necklace is fake is an example of dramatic irony.  The assumption that it was real is what makes it this type of irony.

clane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Verbal irony is expressed by Mathilde when her husband brings home the invitation and she says "I have no gown, and, therefore, I can't go to this ball. Give your card to some colleague whose wife is better equipped than I am." Mathilde doesn't really want her husband to give the invitation away, she is being sarcastic which is the most common form of verbal irony. She wants a new dress.

Situational irony is expressed most clearly in the ending of the book when Mathilde learns that the necklace she has gone into poverty to replace was actually a fake. Situational irony is when an outcome is the opposite of the expected outcome.

Dramatic irony is expressed through Mathilde's rejection from a part of society she so desires to be a part of. Dramatic irony is when the audience knows something that the characters do not and we can see her rejection more clearly than she. We can also see that her life really isn't that bad, which she has trouble recognizing because she is so worried about the things others have.