Identify irony in Alice Munro's short story "How I Met My Husband."

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Alice Munro's "How I Met My Husband" is the story about a young girl, Edie, who learns important things, among them what kind of person she is. She also finds that wishing for the impossible is a waste of time and that living with the truth is time better spent.

When a plane piloted by Chris Watters lands on the old fairground in Edie's little town, she becomes infatuated with him. He seems such a romantic figure.

They first meet when, wearing a dress that belongs to the woman Edie works for, Watters comes over to the house and sees her. He is nice and complimentary, something a girl of Edie's age would enjoy.

I wasn't even old enough then to realize how out of the common it is, for a man to say something like that to a woman, or somebody he is treating like a woman. For a man to say a world like beautiful.

Later in the day, Edie searches Watters out and they share a cigarette. Edie is concerned that Watters might say something about Edie wearing Mrs. Peebles' dress, but he promises to say nothing.

Over time, the excitement of the plane wears off, as people grow accustomed to Chris Watters. She learns from his conversations with Mrs. Peebles that he learned to fly in the war, and that he can't seem to settle down to an "ordinary life."

Towards the story's end, we know that Watters' comment about settling down is foreshadowing. When his fiancée Alice Kelling shows up, it isn't long before Chris (literally) takes off, leaving everything behind—including knowledge of his whereabouts. Before he leaves, however, he spends time kissing Edie, and then promises to write to her so she might come to visit him.

As young as Edie is, she never doubts his sincerity. Everyday after she has finished her chores for Mrs. Peebles, she sits at the front door, waiting for the mailman. She doesn't mind the waiting for it has allowed her to forget about the terrible scene that followed Watters' sudden departure and the adults' knowledge that Edie had kissed him.

The mailman, Edie realizes, has the look a Carmichael, which he confirms when she talks with him.

I was always smiling when the mailman got there, and continued smiling even after he gave me the mail and I saw today wasn't the day. [...] So I asked his name (he was a young man, shy but good-humored, anybody could ask him anything) and then I said, "I knew by your face!" He was pleased by that and always glad to see me and got a little less shy. "You've got the smile I've been waiting on all day!" he used to holler out the car window.

The days go by and then months until it finally dawns on Edie that the letter will never come. She is saddened by the knowledge and eventually stops waiting for the mail. However, she also realizes that there are women who spend every day of their lives waiting at the mailbox, and "other women busy and not waiting." Edie knows herself well enough to realize that she is not the type to spend forever waiting. 

Soon the mailman calls the Peebles' house and asks her out on a date. She says yes. They date for two years and then become engaged for another year, until they finally marry and start a family of their own.

The irony, of course, is that Edie met her husband while patiently waiting for a letter from another man. We can conclude that had she never met Chris Watters, she might never have met her husband.

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