List and explain 3 examples of irony in "Brownies."

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the short story "Brownies," by ZZ Packer, many examples of irony exist. In fact, the entire racial situation in the story is ironic. Generally, we assume that racism and discrimination exist in the form of whites against blacks. However, in this story, it is the black...

See
This Answer Now

Start your subscription to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your Subscription

In the short story "Brownies," by ZZ Packer, many examples of irony exist. In fact, the entire racial situation in the story is ironic. Generally, we assume that racism and discrimination exist in the form of whites against blacks. However, in this story, it is the black girls in the Brownie troop who discriminate against the white girls in Troop 909. Not only do they discriminate against the white girls because of color, but, later in the story, they discriminate against the white girls because they are "delayed learners." Furthermore, the black girls exhibit discrimination amongst themselves. For example, it is not until the end of the story that the reader finds out the narrator's real name is Laurel; she has been dubbed Snot because of an embarrassing incident.

Most importantly, the purpose of a Brownie Troop is to teach young girls to work as a team and how to treat others as you would like to be treated. The black girls do just the opposite in their desire to pick a fight with Troop 909. Even the songs they sing contain irony, such as in the "Brownie Song" (to "smile") and the Friend's Song ("to make new friends")—the troop does just the opposite.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In my mind, the ironies in Brownies seem to revolve around the idea of race and social interaction.  It seems a bit ironic that while the girls feel "victimized" by the comments of the White girls in Troop 909, they, themselves, are victimized by one another, in particular, Arnetta, whose dominant voice silences most other discussion.  It is interesting to note that the black girls' opinion of White people as forces that need to be overcome might be something needed to check or limit Arnetta's extreme level of power.  Another irony would be that the girls have created this image in their own mind of Troop 909 that they are racist, deliberate in their words and actions, and highly malevolent.  The ironic aspect here is that the girls from Troop 909 are slow learners and that some of them suffer from disorders such as Echolalia.  For all the bluster about how bad the girls from Troop 909 were, there is a certain odd feeling about going after them once the truth is discovered.  It's ironic that another one of the leaders, Octavia, ends up saying that the girls should be left alone when she realizes what the truth is.  Finally, the story about the Mennonite family contains irony.  If racism is something that should be stopped at every and each possible turn, it is ironic that the story about the Mennonite family is one that reflects the true horror of racism and discrimination:  The legacy of its perpetrators is that it removes the humanity from the victims.  When Daphne exposes Laurel's father own lack of humanity in not thanking the Mennonites, the realization that there is a presence of "something mean" is ironic.  In the end, we see that the victims of racism and discrimination end up modeling the patterns of abusive behavior and that becomes ironic in how both aggressors and victims perceive one another.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team