Is there any irony in "Dry September"?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is intense irony in this short story where an innocent black man is lynched cruelly by a group of white men for a crime that he is accused of by a woman who is just trying to relieve the tedium of her life. Firstly, there is irony in the way that the white men respond to the charge that Miss Minnie brings. It becomes very quickly evident that issues such as whether Will Mayes actually committed the crime or not become secondary compared to what is seen as a challenge to white supremacy. Note how McLendon responds to questions about ascertaining what actually occurred:

Happen? What the hell difference does it make? Are you going to let the black sons get away with it until one really does it?

Secondly, there is irony in the ending of this short story, where the characters of Miss Minnie and McLendon are further explored. Although it is never directly stated that Miss Minnie made up her charge, the way in which others gossip about her clearly suggests this. It is therefore strongly suggested that she invented the story as an attempt to relieve her frustrated life. However, the ending shows that this has not changed, and as a result she becomes hysterical. In the same way, McLendon, when he returns home that night, is shown to be physically abusive towards his wife. His violence against Will Mayes is just shown to be a way that he expresses his own frustrations, that remain unassauged by the lynching. Both the acts of lying and then of murder are shown to have been fruitless in producing any real change in the principal characters.

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Dry September

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