Select an ironic moment in a literary work and explain the nature of the irony in the work? From the How to Read Like a Professor? assignment.

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The previous post about Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace" reminds me of another of his short stories--"The Piece of String." In the story, the man who bends to collect a simple, discarded piece of string from the street is eventually undone by this seemingly innocent act. His action is believed...

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The previous post about Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace" reminds me of another of his short stories--"The Piece of String." In the story, the man who bends to collect a simple, discarded piece of string from the street is eventually undone by this seemingly innocent act. His action is believed to be that of a thief, and even though the theft is resolved and the man absolved of the crime, the people in the community never accept the truth. The old man dies friendless, all because of a piece of string.

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Let's look at a different kind of irony:  dramatic irony.  Dramatic irony is when the reader or audience knows something that the character does not know.  My favorite example of dramatic irony is from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Huck began feeling really wonderful about himself being "free from sin" for the first time because he wrote a letter to Miss Watson turning Jim in as a runaway slave.  It isn't long, however, before Huck begins to think of what a wonderful friend Jim has been in their journey down the river.  Take a look at Huck's thoughts:

It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

"All right, then, I'll go to hell"- and tore it up.

Now, we know, as the audience, that Huck is actually doing the admirable and noble thing by not turning Jim in.  Slavery as an institution is intrinsically evil.  Poor Huck has been taught that it is "good" to think the exact opposite. This bit of dramatic irony is wonderful insight into Huck's character.  Huckleberry Finn:  a diamond in the rough!

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If you are looking for a short story, "The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant is ironic. Madame Mathilde Loisel borrows what she thinks is an expensive necklace. She wears it to a ball and feels as if she is the most beautiful woman there.

After the ball, Madame Loisel realizes that she has lost the necklace. Rather than tell her friend, Madame Forestier, that she lost her valuable necklace, she borrows money to buy another necklace. She returns the similar necklace to her friend, hoping she will not notice the difference. Then she spends the next ten years working hard to pay off the debt. Doing housework, she ruins her nails and her physical appearance is a mess. She ages in ten years from all the hard work, trying to pay off the loans she borrowed to replace the original necklace she borrowed.

Ten years after losing the necklace, she happens to see her friend, Madame Forestier, and tells her the truth. She tells her that she lost the necklace and borrowed thirty-six thousand francs to replace it. With a sigh, her friend tells her that the original necklace was fake;

Madame Forestier, deeply moved, took her hands.

'Oh, my poor Mathilde! Why, my necklace was paste! It was worth at most only five hundred francs!'

Ironically, she worked ten years to pay off loans that replaced a fake necklace:

The story's greatest irony, however, is embodied in the necklace itself; while it appears to be a piece of jewelry of great value, it is really an imitation. The Loisels sacrifice their humble but sufficient home to buy an expensive replacement for a cheap original.

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