Short Story: "The Drunkard"
Author: Frank O'Connor
Class: English Literature 102
Grade: 12Any tweaks to add that would wow my teacher would be appreciated. Elongation would also be appreciated.
Many elements of humor exist within the many forms of communication that we humans use. While some more bitter elements do exist such as sarcasm and sardonic humour, the more widely accepted element of witty humor turns out to be ironic humor. It is this humor that Frank O'Connor decided to use to write the short story "The Drunkard". Ironic humor helps a writer convey different emotions, observations, or truths about the human experience according to the form of irony used. In other words, Frank used different types of irony, irony which he then crafted to critique Mick's alcoholism by laughing at the incongruous situation he had to deal with; that being his son becoming drunk.
Within "The Drunkard", different forms of irony are used to address different situations. Frank uses verbal irony many times throughout the story to humorously express an emotion or make an observation. One example of the use of verbal irony in "The Drunkard" states as follows, "My brave little man! She said with her eyes shining. It was God did it you were there. You were his guardian angel."(O'Connor 84) This is ironic because the image of an angel is of an being that does not cause problems onto others. Larry, his dad's new "guardian angel," was an angel who saved his dad from the unquenchable thirst by causing massive amounts of problems for his father, in other words, by virtue of doing wrong and drinking profuse amounts of alcohol. This is verbal irony because it is not what the reader expects Larry's mothers reaction to be towards the situation. The reader is almost made to assume that the mother would become furious at the child for taking drink. Since Larry stopped his father, his mother overlooked the situation. This is precisely how Frank O'Connor used verbal irony to express an emotion, with this specific situation being aimed towards thankfulness from the mother. Another example of verbal irony used in the text reads as follows, "By the time he had taken the first he already realized that he had made a fool of himself, took a second to forget it and a third to forget that he couldn't forget, and at last came home reeling drunk. From this on it was "The Drunkard's Progress", as in the moral prints." This statement is ironic because a drunkard is never assumed to be associated with progress. In-fact, Mick always manages to diminish himself after the first few drinks into a defeated labourer. Frank uses this statement to express the observation that as Mick's drinking progresses, his at-home situation stagnates.
Frank O'Connor also uses another form of ironic humor, that being dramatic irony. Many authors use dramatic irony to build suspense, create tension, or sustain a reader's interest. In "The Drunkard", Frank uses dramatic irony to build tension between Mick and his local community, including his wife. In "The Drunkard" it states, "But I gave him no drink, he shouted, aghast at the horrifying interpretation the neighbors had chosen to give him his misfortune. He took it while my back was turned. What the hell do you think I am? Ah, she replied bitterly, everyone knows what you are now. God forgive you, wasting our hard-earned few ha'pence on drink, and bringing up your child to be a drunken corner-boy like yourself."(O'Connor 79-80) The reader was present at the pub during the incident, and witnessed all of the important details. Mick's wife was not present, and only had the neighbors to testify about the situation. This would ironically lead her to believe that Mick purposefully intoxicated Larry, even though the reader knows this is not true. Frank O'Connor used this portion of text to max out the tension between Mick and his wife. This tension is soon relieved however after the reveal that Mick went to work the next morning. "But the next morning, when he got up and went out quietly to work with his dinner-basket...." Another example within the text of dramatic irony can be found when Mick and his friend were walking Larry home after his drink. In "The Drunkard" it states, "I saw plain enough that, coaxed by the sunlight, every woman old and young in Blarney Lane was leaning over her half-door or sitting on her doorstep. They all stopped gabbling to gape at the strange spectacle of two sober, middle-aged men bringing home a drunken small boy with a cut over his eye."(O'Connor The local neighbors were not present at the public house, and could only assumed what had aspired there. The reader is already informed of all that happened, so it seems ironic that Mick is being assumed as the perpetrator of the young child's intoxication. Now that all of the neighbors know of the late-night drunken fiasco, Mick's wife is bound to find out. It can be assumed that Mick already knows kindle the flames of tension within the story, setting up the inevitable meeting between Mick and his wife back at home.
The final form of irony used by Frank O'Connor within his short story "The Drunkard", consists of situational irony. In most cases, an author would use situational irony to teach a lesson or convey a truth to the audience. An example of situational irony within the text reads as follow, "I was still thirsty. I found if I stood on tiptoe I could just reach Father's glass, and the idea occurred to me that it would be interesting to know what the contents were like. He had his back to it and wouldn't notice. I took down the glass and sipped cautiously. It was a terrible disappointment. I was astonished that he could even drink such stuff. It looked as if he had never tried lemonade." Larry is supposed to act as a barrier to his father's drinking habit, and in a way succeeds, although not in the way one would infer. He drinks all of his dad's beer in the bar, because he became curious as to why his father would drink. The son's drinking quickly becomes the story's primary source of humor and irony, when it is he,and not his father, that is drunk and yelling profanity that is stereotypical of an adult drunk. The short story hints at the comical side of human curiosity, and how people often try to prevent something, only to become part of it. At the end of the story it is presented to the reader that Mick did not consume any alcohol, making it present that Larry has succeeded in his mother's mission, even though he himself drank profusely.
To conclude, irony has been a form of humorous witty expression ever since the beginning of the study of literature. Many different forms of humorous witt exist within the english language, including sarcasm and sardonic elements. The most widely used form of witty humour turns out to be ironic humour. It is this humor that Frank O'Connor decided to use to write the short story "The Drunkard". Ironic humor helps a writer convey different emotions, observations, or truths about the human experience according to the form of irony used. According to the evidence presented above, Frank O'Connor used precisely three different forms of comical irony to convey different emotions, tensions, observations, and truths.