An Analysis of Symbolism and Irony in Three Short Stories

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The usage of symbolism and irony to communicate theme is an imperative tool in short stories. These eloquent writing techniques clarify and embellish the reader’s interpretations while also keeping the story interesting and slightly mysterious. The authors of the short stories “August Heat,” “The Story of an Hour,” and “Through the Tunnel” all weave carefully constructed webs of these two techniques to assist in revealing theme to the reader. To begin, author William Fryer Harvey spins an intricate tale of the prominence of flaws in times of stress through his work “August Heat.” The entire story is stitched together with irony and symbolism, all of which point toward the untimely death of the main character, Withencroft. The story begins with Withencroft making a sketch, which he refers to as his best, of a massive man standing in court with a look of utter defeat etched upon his face. Ironically, the man in this prided sketch turns out to be Withencroft’s murderer. After the completion of his sketch, Withencroft stumbles upon a small shop, which he refers to as an “oasis” in the oppressive heat. Within this so-called “oasis” resides Atkinson, the very man portrayed in Withencroft’s drawing. Atkinson immediately waves a symbolic flag of future danger and bloodshed through his red handkerchief. Continuing this practice of rich symbolism is the description of the tombstone that Atkinson is carving, which oddly bears Withencroft’s name. The stone is flawed, just as Atkinson is, with a hidden crack in the back. The crack will never withstand the cold, just as Atkinson will be driven to madness by the stifling heat. There is even symbolism in the way that Atkinson waters his dying flowers, because even the things he tries so hard ... ... middle of paper ... ...ediately apparent. The “explosion of light” embodies the recognition and accomplishment of an objective. While it is logical for one to expect that Jerry would be unable to contain the news of his success, he actually is so content that he refrains from telling anyone in a show of situational irony. The fastidious use of these techniques by Lessing guides the reader to the idea that maturity is reached when one no longer feels the need to broadcast his successes to other people. In conclusion, it is clear that the use of symbolism and irony is crucial for exposing theme to the reader. These techniques keep the reader thinking and predicting, and often leave a lasting memory in the minds of those who recognize their utility. These methods are what make “August Heat,” “The Story of an Hour,” and “Through the Tunnel” such timeless and intriguing works of literature.

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