One of the prominent themes, commonly explored in the works of literature, is a blindness of one’s fate. Apparently, it is being quite impossible for the people to proceed with indulging in a variety of cognitive activities without noticing that it is namely the factor of uncertainty, which defines the actual outcome of their even seemingly well-planned undertakings.
In its turn, the exposure of fate’s blindness is best achieved by the mean of authors utilizing the rhetorical element of irony. The reason for this is simple – by emphasizing ironic undertones of how characters go about addressing life’s challenges, authors increase the emotional appeal of their stories.
After all, just as it is being the case with many literary characters trying to adjust the surrounding reality to correlate with their deep-seated idealistic/irrational anxieties, the members of reading audiences are being naturally inclined to seek purposefulness to their existence.
However, given the fact that such their inclination stands in striking opposition to the actual essence of nature’s workings, it does not come as a particular surprise that eventually, most of them end up experiencing certain disillusionment, as the result of having realized the sheer erroneousness of their idealistic attitudes towards life.
Therefore, upon being exposed to a literary irony, concerned with accentuating fate’s blindness, readers are able to confirm the validity of their own experiences, in this respect. In its turn, this causes them to them to think of the stories/novels that feature the prominent elements of irony, as such that represent a particularly high literary value.
In this paper, I will aim to explore the legitimacy of an earlier suggestion in regards to how the deployment of a literary irony had helped Shirley Jackson and Nathaniel Hawthorne to emphasize the philosophic significance of their short stories The Lottery and The Ambitious Guest.
As people go through life, they tend to assess the qualitative essence of their experiences, concerned with addressing life’s challenges, in terms of ‘fairness vs. unfairness’.
Such their tendency, however, appears highly irrational, because it is often being the case that what people tend to consider the emanations of ‘fairness’, in regards to the lives of others, seem highly ‘unfair’, when assessed through the lenses of their own existential experiences. The validity of this idea can be well illustrated in relation to Jackson’s short story.
After all, even though that is it appears from this story’s context, the character of Mrs. Hutchinson used to participate in playing the lottery on numerous occasions, it never occurred to her that there was any unfairness to the stoning of lottery’s previous ‘winners’.
In fact, she even had a hard time while trying to conceal her excitement, in respect of having been provided with an opportunity to observe the spectacle of a next lottery’s ‘winner’ being put to death: “I looked out the window and the kids was gone, and then I remembered it was the twenty-seventh and came a-running” (Jackson).
Nevertheless, after having realized it is was her husband Bill who pulled out the ‘lucky’ chip this time, Mrs. Hutchinson started to exhibit the sings of uneasiness with what was about to follow. Yet, while being unable to prevent the stoning of her husband by the mean of appealing to participants’ sense of rationale, Mrs.
Hutchinson could not think of anything better to do but to accuse Mr. Summers of the fact that he did not allow Bill to take his time, while deciding on which wooden chip he should have picked.
To substantiate the legitimacy of her claim, Mrs. Hutchinson invoked the notion of fairness: “Tessie Hutchinson shouted to Mr. Summers. ‘You didn’t give him time enough to take any paper he wanted. I saw you.
It wasn’t fair!’” (Jackson). Given the fact that, as it was the case with Mrs. Hutchinson, village residents were just as concerned with ensuring ‘fairness’, as their lives’ foremost prerogative, they did allow lottery’s redraw. As a result, Mrs. Hutchinson ended up pulling out the ‘lucky’ chip herself.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that this time she did not have any formal excuses to complain about the ‘unfairness’, Mrs. Hutchinson proceeded with referring to her ‘luck’ with picking out the designated chip as being utterly unfair: “’It isn’t fair,’ she said… ‘It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,’ Mrs. Hutchinson screamed” (Jackson).
It is needles to mention, of course, that there is a prominently defined irony to Jackson story’s conclusion. After all, nobody forced Mr. Hutchinson to start making public appeals to ‘fairness’.
Therefore, it is utterly ironic that, while referring to her rather acute sense of ‘fairness’, as the driving motivation behind her demand for lottery’s redraw, Mrs. Hutchinson had in fact brought about her own demise.
In its turn, this point out to the full validity of a highly ironic saying – ‘be careful about what you are wishing for’. Apparently, the actual tragedy of one’s existence is not being concerned with the fact that, as time goes on, he or she is having a hard time, while trying to assure ‘fate’s smiling’, but with the fact that very often such ‘fate’s smiling’ appears to have strongly defined negative connotations to it.
Essentially the same argument can be utilized within the context of discussing the significance of a literary irony in Hawthorne’s story. As it appears from this particular story, the character of young traveler never ceased experiencing an acute sensation that he was destined for something great.
Moreover, traveler’s greatness-related anxieties were not as much concerned with his intention to become a socially prominent individual in physical life, as much as they were concerned with his desire to attain post-mortem fame: “The secret of the young man’s character was a high and abstracted ambition. He could have borne to live an undistinguished life, but not to be forgotten in the grave” (Hawthorne).
Apparently, the traveler was endowed with a so-called ‘Faustian’ psyche, the workings of which are being concerned with an affiliated individual’s subconscious and highly idealistic desire to live for something greater than simply the satisfaction its animalistic instincts, as it is being usually the case with people endowed with a so-called ‘Apollonian’ mentality.
Nevertheless, ‘Faustians’ are being just as subjected to the objective laws of nature as ‘Apollonians’ are. Given the fact that the principle of uncertainty (Heisenberg’s principle) defines the very essence of how natural laws affect the surrounding reality, it does not come as a particular surprise that idealistically minded people’s strive to ensure the ‘purposefulness’ of their lives often falls short of its objectives.
After all, it is specifically their exposure/non-exposure to purely accidental events, which define these people’s actual chances to attain social prominence – whatever the emotionally uncomfortable such a suggestion may sound.
Therefore, the novel’s scene in which traveler dies during the course of an avalanche (which presupposes that his grave will forever remain anonymous), cannot be referred to as anything but highly ironic.
It is not only that the cottage where traveler had stopped for the night was left untouched by the avalanche: “Down came the whole side of the mountain, in a cataract of ruin.
Just before it reached the house, the stream broke into two branches – shivered not a window there, but overwhelmed the whole vicinity” (Hawthorne), which means that the traveler would have survived, had he stayed inside, but that contrary to traveler’s expectation, his death proved essentially futile.
Thus, just as it is being the case with highly ironic sounding of Jackson novel’s conclusion, the highly ironic conclusion of Hawthorne’s novel was meant to emphasize fate’s blindness.
I believe that the provided earlier line of argumentation, in regards to what should be considered the significance of both stories’ clearly ironic sounding, is being fully consistent with paper’s initial thesis.
By utilizing the rhetorical element of irony, Jackson and Hawthorne were able to increase the emotional appeal of their stories.
Even though that the settings of both stories imply the apparent incompatibility between earlier discussed characters’ existential modes, these stories’ reading does advance the idea that, regardless of what happened to be the particulars of people’s cultural or social affiliation, they are being equally subjected to the strikes of a blind fate.
Therefore, even though that formally speaking, both stories can be best described as being rather depressing, they nevertheless emanate a strong humanist spirit. After all, these stories do encourage readers to consider the possibility that there is no ‘fairness’ to be found in life – hence, increasing their chances to adopt a proper attitude, when it comes to tackling life’s inconsistencies.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Ambitious Guest. Classic Reader, 2010. Web. http://www.classicreader.com/book/187/1/
Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery. American Literature, 2003. Web. https://americanliterature.com/author/shirley-jackson/short-story/the-lottery