What are the ironies in the title of the short story "Good Advice Is Rarer than Rubies"?
Salman Rushdie’s short story “Good Advice Is Rarer than Rubies” is a tale that is filled with irony. One of the most obvious instances is the fact that the advice that Muhammad Ali gives to Miss Rehana is a) free and b) not used in the way that he intends. Indeed, Ali initially attempts to get paid for his advice, but abandons this goal because he is attracted to Rehana:
“I am going crazy, Muhammad Ali thought, because he heard his voice telling her of its own volition, 'Miss, I have been drawn to you by Fate. What to do? Our meeting was written. I also am a poor man only, but for you my advice comes free'” (6).
He gives his advice for free, which is odd for him considering his status as a swindler. This is one aspect of the story that renders the title ironic. The other major irony in the story comes at the end. Ali gives Rehana free advice on how to do well on the visa process for entering England to join her fiancé. He gives her a detailed account on what questions they will ask and the arduous nature of the process. When she comes back to him later, he assumes that he has successfully enabled her to enter England. However, he soon discovers that she used his advice to intentionally fail the interview and stay in her homeland:
“I got all their questions wrong.... Distinguishing marks I put on the wrong cheeks, bathroom decor I completely redecorated, all absolutely topsyturvy, you see.... Now I will go back to Lahore and my job. I work in a great house, as ayah to three good boys. They would have been sad to see me leave” (14-15).
Ironically, Ali has given her sound advice, but not in the way that he intended. She is delighted to stay home and not participate in the arranged marriage with her fiancé in England.
There are several ironies in the title. The first is that for all that good advice may be rarer than rubies, Muhammad Ali is willing to sell his advice for much cheaper than this. A second is that in being attracted to Miss Rehana's beauty, he's hoping to be paid in something other than money (or jewels). A third is that he then tries to give his advice away, making it clear that this advice really isn't that valuable. A fourth and larger irony is found in the story's resolution. Because Miss Rehana declines the false passport he offers, she has to answer the questions. Because she is honest, she is turned down—and that means she gets to stay in India, rather than having to go to England. In not getting what she's trying to do, she gets what she wants: very ironic.