Featured Image: It’s a black fly in my pinot noir… Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?
I love irony. It’s the funniest and the most poignant of literary devices. It’s always quiet yet obvious. It’s not explicit, yet it’s impactful. It can be painful, sad even, but goddammit is it always hilarious to me.
And thank god for Alanis Morissette for teaching us all what irony is– otherwise, we would all still be confusing coincidence with irony. One of the lines from her famous song happened to me on my writing retreat. I had spent a decent amount of time and energy trying to catch a fly. Once I finally gave up and decided to relax with a glass of wine, the fly landed right in it. I considered getting it out– but the irony (and the revenge) was much too sweet for me, and so I shook my head and laughed until it stopped moving.
Some of my favorite stories use irony– that kind of irony that punches you in the gut. (Spoilers incoming)
For example, “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry is a story of two lovers who both sell their most prized possessions – his watch and her hair – to buy each other a gift. Alas, he buys her a comb for her hair, and she buys him a chain for his watch. So sad but honestly, so funny.
In Kate Chopin’s “Story of an Hour“, a wife is told her husband has died in a train accident. Everyone is reluctant to relay the news, as they expect her grief to overtake her. At first, it seems to, as she locks herself in her room. But upon the realization that she is now “free!” she becomes full of “monstrous joy.” Then, after coming back out of her room, her husband walks through the door, very much alive. The sight causes such a fright, such devastation, that she collapses and dies of a “joy that kills.” The irony is painful but, it caused me to laugh out loud when I first read it– a loud, guttural, “HA!”
Even my favorite episode of The Twilight Zone, “Time Enough At Last“, is just one big irony. A man whose wife and boss never let him read finds himself the only one alive after an apocalyptic event. He is at first, of course, mournful. But as he walks around his decimated town, he comes across the library. Books are strewn all over the steps and he sits down, delighted, realizing he has “time enough at last” to read. He goes to start reading, but, alas, his glasses fall off his face and hit the stones, breaking irreparably. Blurry-eyed, he realizes that he can no longer read, and utters “it’s not fair”. Unfair, indeed, but also dreadfully funny.
While my examples seem more sad than funny– what other reasons are there to use irony? With these short stories, irony is the story. What lesson are we learning when we read pieces like these? Are we learning that life is unpredictable and inherently bullshit? Be careful what you take for granted? Expect the unexpected? I’m not sure.
I want to start writing humor into my “horror” stories, and I think irony is the best way to do that, but it’s pretty hard to think of them. That’s why I wanted to ask you, readers, to tell me your most ironic stories. What is the most painfully ironic thing that’s happened to you? It doesn’t even have to be the most painful, could be the most mundane but still made you giggle a bit, like my fly-in-my-wine story.
Use the comments section below, or comment on my Instagram or Facebook post.