Irony in "As for Me and My House"

Irony in "As for Me and My House"

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Mrs. Bentley has just moved to another small town and has befriended a woman who she feels she will come to like. She proclaims, "I think I'm going to like Judith" (Ross 16). What the reader discovers is the irony of the fact that Mrs. Bentley's act of befriending Judith leads to Philip's act of committing adultery with Judith. The events that unfold to reveal this ironic twist will be analyzed.

The friendship between Judith and Mrs. Bentley grew as Mrs. Bentley invited Judith back to their house after the mass. This happened despite the fact Mrs. Bentley appears to have caught her husband, through the mirror, steering at Judith while she sang. In mass, while Philip was listening to the music, Mrs. Bentley recalls, "it's seldom he listens to music" (Ross 51). Mrs. Bentley invited Judith to their home because she felt bad about the way it appeared the choir was ignoring Judith after the mass. It is also ironic that Mrs. Bentley "never got along with women very well" but somehow the one woman she does get along with is the same women that slept with her husband (Ross 102). Their friendship continued to grow as the weeks passed. Judith was a regular dinner guest at the Bentley's and often times she and Mrs. Bentley would go for a walk following the meal. On one occasion when Judith was over for supper, she had worn a new dress that Mrs. Bentley described as "becoming" but feels that she had worn it for "Philip's benefit." She feels herself wondering about Judith's intentions towards Philip. Despite Mrs. Bentley's worries, she continues to invite Judith to supper.

Furthermore, it is ironic that Mrs. Bentley in her desire to become closer to Philip ends up becoming sick during a walk in the rain and Philip ends up being taken care of by Judith. Mrs. Bentley is constantly trying to bring their love back to the way it once was by going for walks as they once did, when they were first married. On one such occasion, shortly after Steve was taken away, Philip said "you like walking in a drizzle, don't you?" This walk leads Mrs. Bentley to getting sick and summoned to bed by the doctor. Philip relies on Judith to look after the cleaning and cooking while she was sick.

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The result, ironic as it is was, was for Philip and Judith to be alone a lot and Mrs. Bentley did not like it in the least as she thinks "It will take a worse ache in my shoulder...to keep me in the bedroom while she sits out here alone with him" (Ross 161). Her fear of Judith grows and finally admits, to herself, that she is "afraid of her" (Ross 161). Mrs. Bentley's fears become reality five nights later when she overheard them laughing, together, in Philip's study. The first proof of adultery was when Judith became pregnant, Mrs. Bentley already had suspected her husbands unfaithfulness because "Philip's such a poor actor." Further proof of their infidelity lies with the gift from Mrs. Bentley to Judith and the reaction that followed. Mrs. Bentley had sent Philip off to visit Judith after she was pregnant to deliver a gift of oranges. Upon Philip's return, he said, "she cried when I told her they were from you - all afternoon, one in each hand, as if that could help" (Ross 201). Two things can be taken from this, first Judith is remorseful that she has been caught and has betrayed her friend; Secondly, Philip is admitting that Judith feels guilty by his comments "as if that could help." Clearly, this shows that he is aware of the guilt Judith feels which acknowledges the fact that he slept with Judith.

The final example of the irony of Mrs. Bentleys' contributing to Philip and Judith getting together is witnessed in one of the dinner scenes. During dinner, Mrs. Bentley watches Judith's eyes to see if they follow Philip as he leaves the table. She cannot help but think to herself that her possession of Philip is more than Judith will ever have and admits that she is "not above gloating over the shadow of it that is left" (Ross 144). The shadow being the possession of Philip, which she feels Judith will not have. It is ironic that Mrs. Bentley does not possess Philip and that Judith is the one who possess Philip in the end. Not only does she possess him though the act of intercourse but she also possess him by being the mother of his child and will live in his and Mrs. Bentleys' memory forever.
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