Is there any irony in Faulkner's "Dry September"?

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One example of irony is Miss Minnie's promising past. In her youth, she had been able to ride the "crest of the town's social life," enjoying a great popularity in her community. Somehow, though, opportunities for finding a husband have passed her by, and now in her forties, no men even follow her with their eyes when she passes by. Although her young life was promising, her position in her midlife is something of a joke. Everyone in town comments that she isn't really a believable witness against Will Mayes. In her youth, Minnie positions herself as a girl to be admired; in her later years, she positions herself as the girl to be pitied:

"Shhhhhhhhhhh! Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" they said, freshening the icepack, smoothing her hair, examining it for gray; "poor girl!" Then to one another: "Do you suppose anything really happened?" their eyes darkly aglitter, secret and passionate. "Shhhhhhhhhh! Poor girl! Poor Minnie!"

Another moment of irony occurs when the gang is trying to force Will Mayes into the car. The barber, who has defended Will from the onset and who leaves his barber shop specifically to try to defend him, actually engages in the violence against him:

The others expelled their breath in a dry hissing and struck him with random blows and he whirled and cursed them, and swept his manacled hands across their faces and slashed the barber upon the mouth, and the barber struck him also.

In a desperate act of survival, Will hits the barber, and this is provocation enough for the barber to strike back in violence against the man he'd actually shown up to protect. Additionally, when they all get into the car, Will pleads with Henry to stay by uttering his name twice: "Mr. Henry." Sadly, the one man with the potential to save Will bails out of the car—when his entire original intention was to save Will from certain death.

Thus, Henry's actions are also ironic. He leaves the barber shop full of heroism, determined to give Will a chance to survive the group looking to avenge Miss Minnie's "honor":

The barber wiped the razor carefully and swiftly, and put it away, and ran to the rear, and took his hat from the wall. "I'll be back as soon as I can," he said to the other barbers. "I can't let—" He went out, running.

Yet in the end, he seems more interested in saving himself and makes a cowardly exit from the car.

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It certainly does seem ironic that it does not matter to most of the white men in the barber shop whether or not a crime was actually committed against a white woman by a black man. The characterization of McLendon at the end of the story would suggest that he is simply looking for reasons to be violent and craving outlets for it. He is abusive toward his wife, he gets physical with the other men in the barber shop, and he, we must assume, kills Willy Mayes.

The men discuss their suspicions that Miss Minnie made up the story that she was raped by a black man; she apparently has a history of "man scare[s]" and had circulated a story about someone watching her undress from a rooftop the year before. Further, the barber—a white man—argues again and again that Willy is someone who would never break the law or rebel against the whites in the town. When one of the men suggests that they get the facts and "figure this out," McLendon shouts, "Figure out hell!" He doesn't care if a crime was committed or not; he just wants a chance to kill someone and be violent without repercussion, and he can because he is white and Willy is black.

Meanwhile, the white women who keep company with Miss Minnie also obviously think it is likely that she has made up the whole story. When she goes into hysterics, they ask one another, "Do you suppose anything really happened?" They seem to coddle and comfort her despite their evident belief that nothing really happened to her, that she was not raped at all. It is ironic that no one confronts her about her story. Ultimately, it is ironic that the person who is telling the truth—Willy Mayes—is lynched, and the person who is lying—Miss Minnie—is cosseted and comforted.

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There is intense irony in this short story where an innocent black man is lynched cruelly by a group of white men for a crime that he is accused of by a woman who is just trying to relieve the tedium of her life. Firstly, there is irony in the way that the white men respond to the charge that Miss Minnie brings. It becomes very quickly evident that issues such as whether Will Mayes actually committed the crime or not become secondary compared to what is seen as a challenge to white supremacy. Note how McLendon responds to questions about ascertaining what actually occurred:

Happen? What the hell difference does it make? Are you going to let the black sons get away with it until one really does it?

Secondly, there is irony in the ending of this short story, where the characters of Miss Minnie and McLendon are further explored. Although it is never directly stated that Miss Minnie made up her charge, the way in which others gossip about her clearly suggests this. It is therefore strongly suggested that she invented the story as an attempt to relieve her frustrated life. However, the ending shows that this has not changed, and as a result she becomes hysterical. In the same way, McLendon, when he returns home that night, is shown to be physically abusive towards his wife. His violence against Will Mayes is just shown to be a way that he expresses his own frustrations, that remain unassauged by the lynching. Both the acts of lying and then of murder are shown to have been fruitless in producing any real change in the principal characters.

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