Miller is full of amusing anecdotes about people he's met in his life, and here he describes a person he knew who was writing a book: “Each time I meet him he has a new opening for his book. It never gets beyond the opening” (38). Someone who is a writer who cannot get past the opening is not much of a writer at all.
Situational Irony: Engineer
Miller is working on his masterpiece and decides to paint a bridge, claiming that it is easy enough to draw one. He then adds, “Only an engineer can ruin a bridge” (67). This is an ironic statement because an engineer is the one who designs the bridge and who oversees its construction; the bridge literally would not exist without the engineer. This example of irony, which Miller seems to utter in sincerity, is a good example of the absurdity of the whole work.
Verbal Irony: Own Words
Miller looks through his own notebooks as he begins to consider what sort of masterpiece to create, and muses, “Some of the lines I cannot decipher anymore myself—my biographers will take care of them” (57). It is possible to pick up the verbal irony in his words here, for how is it that he cannot interpret his own words and their references but his biographers can? A biographer who has to create truth for their subject is not adhering to the codes of the genre, but Miller makes a solid point in his wry comment regarding the impossibility of total veracity on the part of a biography.
Situational/Verbal Irony: Insane Inmates
Again Miller is considering how to devise his masterpiece, and has decided to turn to painting. He looks to a book of paintings by inmates of an insane asylum and remarks, “If we rolled up our sleeves and went to work the what these idiots do what might we not accomplish in a lifetime!” (60). In this callous bit of irony, Miller suggests that the inmates are working hard while people outside are not, and that it would be wise to model one's work ethic on that of an insane person. Clearly this makes no sense, and most people would not choose to emulate them in the slightest. Interestingly enough, though, Miller comes across as more than a wee bit insane, demonstrating the fine and fungible line between the two states of mind.
Black Spring Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Black Spring is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.