"The Wife's Story" by Ursula Le Guin presents a compelling tale that is not what it initially seems. The reader begins the story thinking that they are reading a fairly typical tale of a concerned wife and a suspicious husband, but very quickly things begin to change. While the reader doesn't initially understand the situation that they are reading about, they are given clues that allow them to catch on before the narrator does herself, resulting in dramatic irony.
In the story, the husband carries on some strange behaviors. He disappears during the day, and the narrator attributes it to an ambiguous curse in his blood, saying
[s]omething comes over the one that's got the curse in his blood, they say, and he gets up because he can't sleep, and goes out into the glaring sun, and goes off all alone - drawn to find those like him.
While this idea of a "curse in the blood" seems fairly suspicious in and of itself, the wife continues, explaining her reasons for not confronting him:
And it may be so, because my husband would do that. I’d half rouse and say, “Where you going to?” and he’d say, “Oh, hunting, be back this evening,” and it wasn’t like him, even his voice was different. But I’d be so sleepy, and not wanting to wake the kids, and he was so good and responsible, it was no call of mine to go asking “Why?” and “Where?” and all like that.
The reader begins to understand that something is clearly going on with this husband, but in the times that he would disappear, the wife does not question his behavior. Because the reader has an inkling of a problem, and the wife, through her desire to keep the peace, doesn't try to understand that there is an issue, the dramatic irony of the next paragraph becomes even more clear:
So it happened that way maybe three times or four. He'd come back late and worn out, and pretty near cross for one so sweet tempered - not wanting to talk about it. I figured everybody got to bust out now and then, and nagging never helped anything. But it did begin to worry me. Not so much that he went, but that he come back so tired and strange. Even, he smelled stranger. It made my hair stand up on end. I could not endure it and I said, "What is that - those smells on you? All over you!" And he said, "I don't know," real short,and made like he was sleeping. But he went down when he thought I wasn't noticing, and washed and washed himself.
Because the reader understands that something is wrong, the wife's apparent cluelessness provokes a strong response. The reader probably believes that the husband is cheating in some way, given the way he comes home with smells on himself, and he washes in secret. Here the wife finally begins to grow a little bit concerned, but she is still not as suspicious as she should be, as the reader already understands that something is definitely wrong.
The dramatic irony is increased in the next paragraph, when the couple's youngest child turns on her father. Now both the reader and one of the children understand that something is wrong. Additionally, when the child rejects her father, the wife sees "[t]he look in his eyes; just for one moment, when he heard that." This is another clue for the reader that there is something to be concerned about. This is the moment when the narrator also begins to understand that something is wrong, but instead of questioning her husband she scolds her child, even though she "was frightened too. Frightened to shaking." It seems as if she is coming around. However, immediately after this, the narrator claims
I got real mad with my baby when she kept on acting crazy scared of her own dad. but she couldn't help it and I couldn't change it.
The narrator finally comes to the realization of what is wrong shortly after, when the story is revealed to be told from the perspective of a female wolfmother who is coming to understand that she has married a werewolf, or perhaps a more appropriate term would be "were-man," who leaves during the day and becomes human. While the reader may not understand exactly what the husband was from the start, there are many indications that something is amiss, and the reader is well aware of it before the narrator.