What are the different examples of verbal irony in "The Story of an Hour"?

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Verbal irony occurs when the speaker expresses one thing but means another. Often, that which is expressed is dramatically different (or even the opposite of) that which is said or written. An easy example is "he is as calm as a hurricane." The use of the word "calm" is ironic because hurricanes are violent and energetic. 

The narrator says that Mrs. Mallard, in recognizing her joy in her new freedom, "did not stop to ask if it were or were not a monstrous joy that held her." This seems like verbal irony but it is not. "Monstrous joy" is an oxymoron that accurately describes what the narrator is trying to communicate. Mrs. Mallard is so full of joy that she doesn't stop to think that it might be monstrous (because she is rejoicing after having just learned of her husband's death). 

The most clear example of verbal irony that I can find is the last statement of the story. "When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease--of the joy that kills." Mrs. Mallard dies of "the joy that kills." It is not "joy" that kills her. It is devastation because her joy is destroyed when she sees that her husband is alive. Her joy was caused by her freedom and independence. When she sees her husband alive, that joy is gone. "Joy" is ironic. 


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