Exploration of Irony and Surprise in the Short Story a Good Man Is Hard to Find and Happy Ending

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Irony and surprise are common literary devices authors use to communicate their ideas when writing literary works. Irony allows the writer to suggest an interpretation that is different from the literal meaning of the words used in the text. The element of surprise allows the writer to manipulate the reader’s expectations and take them somewhere completely different. In the short stories, A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flanney O’Connor and Happy Endings by Margaret Atwood, both authors use the element of irony and surprise to engage readers and to develop deeper levels of meaning in their text.

In A Good Man is Hard to Find, O’connor uses several kinds of irony to communicate her message about the human condition. The foreshadowing of irony is established in the very beginning of the story when she gives us the reason for the grandmother getting dressed for the car ride. “In case of an accident anyone seeing the dead on the highway would know at once that she was lady.” The grandma is a character that is narrow-minded, ignorant, and critical of others but not of herself. She has the idea that the goodness of a person can be determined by their physical appearance and outward behavior. After the car crash,the Misfit makes an appearance and the grandmother recognizes the Misfit. His politeness, which is sincere but also done to put the family at ease, draws out the grandmother's assessment of the Misfit: "Listen," the grandmother almost screamed, "I know you're a good man.  You don't look a bit like you have common blood. I know you must come from nice people!" At the beginning of the story, her opinion about the Misfit is quite the contrary but realizing the Misfit intends harm, she changes her opinion to save herself. The dramatic irony occurs towards the end of the story when the grandma who has been superficial till this point, is in her final moments alone with the Misfit and is able make sense of everything that has gone wrong in her life. She has an...
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