Select an ironic literary work and explain the multivocal nature of the irony in the work.

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amymc | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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I would choose As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner.  In this novel, a family travels by wagon in turn of the century Mississippi to bury their mother in her home town.  The story is revealed through a series of interior monologues presented by Addie's husband, her four sons, her daughter, and her neighbors.  

As we delve into the minds of each of Addie's family members, we notice that burying Addie as per her dying wish is not the focus of this journey.  Each family member has an ulterior motive for traveling to Jefferson.  Anse, her husband, wants a new set of teeth; Dewey Dell wants an abortion; Vardaman wants a toy train; Cash wants a music box. As the ending nears, the readers still expect a burial scene, even though by now we know how dysfunctional this family is.  The ironic twist is palpable; there is no burial scene.  Anse simple emerges with a new Mrs. Bundren.

Each character leads us to expect two things:  the fulfillment of their ulterior motive and their emotions at the actual burial of their mother.   Neither of these happen for any character except Anse, who emerges by the end as the most despised of the Bundren lot.  Anse does get his teeth.  However, the dysfunctional saga will continue without epiphany or resolution, only with a new Mrs. Bundren.