What is some irony in the novel The End of the Road?I am having a hard time finding irony.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The major situational irony in The End of the Road by John Barth is that when the end of the road comes for Rennie, that also produces the end of the road for Jacob's and Joe's antithetical philosophies. Neither man, seen by Rennie as Satan and God, have a philosophy that can encompass the reality of Rennie's death. Furthermore, neither man's philosophy can even carry them though to their next step. They are both frozen and paralyzed by the finality of life. Although Barth makes no narratorial comment nor gives narratorial direction, this seems to be that case because, on the one hand, Jacob's philosophy was like a chameleon, ever changing in context with events and persons while, on the other hand, Joe's philosophy sought first or primary causes. In a situation in which a chameleon change is impossible, such as in the presence of death, the philosophy become an evaporated wafer of non-substance. In the same situation, in which the primary cause is known (medical failure), the first cause is still utterly impossible to uncover. Thus the end of the road is reached by all when Rennie dies. This is the central irony because Rennie's expectation and Jacob's and Joe's expectations were that the Satan and the God and the opposing philosophies were the answer to life's paralysis. Instead, all led to the ultimate paralyzes.

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The End of the Road

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