Dramatic Irony: Michael and Howard’s conversation about Victoria and Jerome (36)
In a typical example of dramatic irony, Howard attempts to indirectly talk to Michael about Jerome and Victoria’s supposed (or former) engagement while Michael walks Howard to the Kipps residence. Howard tries to talk about the issue without talking about it explicitly or even naming it, even though readers understand what he is talking about. Howard—and readers, originally, too—wrongly assumes that Michael knows what he is talking about. Ironically, Howard’s gentle and indirect way of discussing the issue triggers a more violent and combative result than was originally necessary, with Michael cuffing Jerome out of rage and misunderstanding.
Dramatic Irony: Carl’s text message and Levi’s response (83)
When Carl texts Levi out of the blue about attending the anniversary party, Levi is “both flattered and concerned” (83). Levi is concerned that Carl has misunderstood the type of party this is (which he has), but he is also flattered because he respects Carl so much. This is actually a demonstration of a larger social issue that weighs on the shoulders of young black men like Carl and Levi, which is the paradoxical nature of being both “flattered and concerned” when coexisting with “intellectual blacks” or intellectual whites.
Situational Irony: Monty’s sense of humor (113)
Monty is a charismatic man who does not actually have too much of a sense of humor. While he talks to Zora at the party, the narrator notes that “Monty was clearly a man aware of his own comic potential; he was on guard against any irony, attentive to its approach” (113), which is ironic because we would assume a man with comic potential to in fact be funny.
Situational/Dramatic Irony: Zora’s academic fantasy (263)
Claire asks Zora to stand in her place at the faculty meeting and deliver a speech defending Carl and the other discretionary students. She tells Zora that she would like the girl to “Make a barnstorming speech. About something [she] believed in” (263). Directly after this, the narrator informs readers that Zora’s real dream, her real “belief,” her “all-time academic fantasy was to address the faculty members of Wellington College with a barnstorming speech” (263). Ironically, Zora believes more in helping her own image through the act of advocating than she believes in truly standing up for those for whom she advocates.
Dramatic Irony: "Real" black people (418)
Broken-down by Zora and the rest of the intellectual black community of Wellington, Carl makes a heartbreaking vocalization of the stark divide between “intellectual blacks” and “street blacks,” a distinction that people like Levi (and even Carl, for a little bit) try to break and bridge. He says that people like Zora and Jerome and even Monty Kipps “aren’t even black any more, man – I don’t know what you are. You think you’re too good for your own people…I need to be with my people, man – I can’t do this no more” (418). The pronunciation of “my people” is even italicized for emphasis. This is ironic because Carl had been, up to this point, subconsciously attempting to become one of the members of Wellington. Furthermore, this irony raises the question of whether the distinction between "intellectual blacks" and "street blacks" really exists, and in what ways one can really move between these two groups.
On Beauty Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for On Beauty is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.