Tales of the Jazz Age by Fitzgerald
Irony is a literary technique utilized by many authors throughout American Literature. Irony often allows the author to create a meaning in his or her story without blatantly stating them. This causes the reader to think of the meanings behind the words and draw conclusions from the works rather than simply read what is written on the paper. Many authors also use irony to create humor. F. Scott Fitzgerald uses a great deal of irony in many of his short stories.
He uses dramatic irony in his short stories “Porcelain and Pink” and “The Camel’s Back” to portray how one’s actions often defeat their attempts to find love. In both stories, Fitzgerald uses “a relationship of contrast between a character’s limited understanding of his or her situation in some particular moment of the unfolding action” (Baker, 1999) in order to depict two sets of character’s journeys to finding love. In each story the female character has created an obstacle in her search for love. In “The Camel’s Back,” Betty “would marry him and she wouldn’t marry him. She was having such a good time that she hated to take such a definite step” (Fitzgerald, 195).
In “Porcelain and Pink,” Louis believes she “has got to play his game. When in Rome do as the Romans would like to do” (Fitzgerald 272). By using Irony, Fitzgerald depicts the ways in which these women have inhibited their opportunities. In “The Camel’s Back” Fitzgerald mainly uses dramatic irony to allow the reader to know that Perry is in the camel suit while Betty is clueless that the man she has denied to marry in order to retain her freedom is hiding behind the mask. Betty makes comments such as, “say you like me, camel. Say you think I’m beautiful.
Say you’d like to belong to a pretty snake-charmer” (Fitzgerald 211) and “Aren’t you glad we’re going to be married and you’re going to belong to the nice snake-charmer ever afterward?” (Fitzgerald 214) while she is unaware that she is speaking to Perry. Through this dramatic irony, Fitzgerald shows that although Betty longed to stay free and be able to have a good time, the good time she ends up having is with the man she was in love with. Through dramatic irony, Fitzgerald shows that when one attempts to control his or her own destiny the attempts are often futile and he or she often creates more problems and inhibits his or her chances of finding true love. In “Porcelain and Pink,” Fitzgerald also uses irony to show the way a person can affect their chances of finding love. Through his story, he claims that a person should be them self rather than attempting to put on airs and be someone their not. Fitzgerald proves this moral by creating an ironic outcome to the story.
Lois has tried to become someone she has not in an attempt to woo the man she aspires to be with. She attempts to share his love for literature and become the woman she believes he longs for. When the young man finally exclaims “You are mysterious. I love you. You’re beautiful, intelligent, and virtuous, and that’s the rarest known combination” (Fitzgerald, 278), he does not realize that he has actually been talking to Lois’ younger sister Julie. Julie prefers a more carefree lifestyle and says what is on her mind and ends up winning the heart of the young man.
Throughout “Porcelain and Pink,” Fitzgerald couples verbal irony with the ongoing dramatic irony. For instance, the young man asks Julie what she is wearing. The audience knows Julie is naked, however she replies “Why I guess it’s sort of a pinkish white.” She also states that the outfit was a “birthday present” (Fitzgerald 276). This verbal irony is an example of the “double entendre, a good deal of it is created by the changed meanings of words and phrases that Fitzgerald used in the twenties and thirties” (West). Statements such as this make the story entertaining and maintain the reader’s interest.
The dramatic irony in “The Camel’s Back” holds the reader’s attention up until the very last page. The readers know that Perry is inside the camel suit, and they know that it is eminent that Betty will find out. Fitzgerald keeps the reader guessing until the very end when Betty finds out that she has been married to Perry. Fitzgerald then concludes the story with a type of situation irony. Betty begins to sob and says she will annul the marriage.
Perry says he will leave her with the man that was in the back of the camel suit since she does not want to marry him. He tells her good bye and that he is leaving for the west. At this point, it seems as though Betty and Perry’s chances at love have finally been shot when Betty runs to Perry and cries “Oh, Perry, don’t leave me! Perry, Perry, take me with you!” (Fitzgerald 220). This is also ironic because Betty has left Perry multiple times, but when she is the one being left she suddenly realizes what she truly wants. Without the use of Irony in Fitzgerald’s stories, the outcome and events of the stories would drastically change. The readers views of the characters would also be altered.
For example, in “The Camel’s Back,” without the dramatic irony of the characters knowing Perry was in the camel costume while Betty did not then the entire story would have played out much differently. If Betty knew her ex lover was behind the mask then she would not have spent her whole night with him because she had just broken up with him to have her fun and freedom. However, with Fitzgerald’s use of dramatic irony she ended up affirming her love for the man she tried to leave. If “Porcelain and Pink” lacked the irony Fitzgerald cleverly placed in it, the story’s morals would have been much different and the reader’s view of the characters would also change. If the young man had known that it was the younger sister Julie rather than Louis inside the room, he most likely would not have struck a conversation. If he did, the reader would gather the impression that he was a loose man and would not feel the same connection with the moral of love Fitzgerald was attempting to create.
Also, without the irony of the young man telling Julie he loves her for her “rarest combination” of traits, instead of first telling it to Lois, the irony of being yourself rather than trying to please someone and be who one believes they want them to be is a faster more reliable way to find love. Fitzgerald used irony strategically and in many influential ways throughout both “The Camel’s Back” and “Porcelain and Pink” by successfully capturing the reader’s attention, creating humorous moments, and supporting the moral he implies. Fitzgerald turned a simple short story into a multi faceted literary work by chiefly using irony. Using mainly dramatic irony, Fitzgerald was able to show how one’s actions can greatly influence their search for true love.