Going to Meet the Man

Going to Meet the Man Irony

Sister McCandless to John in "The Rockpile" (Situational Irony)

When John refuses to elaborate on why he didn't tell Elizabeth that Roy left the apartment to go play with the other boys, Sister McCandless scolds him and says that Gabriel will surely get to the bottom of the situation. She says Elizabeth is "too soft" with John, thus suggesting that Gabriel is the firmer, and in a sense, the better parent; however, after the reader is keyed in to Gabriel's obvious bias against John and learns the reasoning behind that bias, it becomes clear that Gabriel doesn't have John's best interests at heart.

Eric's fear of aging in "The Man Child" (Verbal and Situational Irony)

Describing Eric's perspective of Jamie on the day of Jamie's birthday celebration, Baldwin writes, "It was perhaps because it was Jamie’s birthday that Eric was held by something in Jamie’s face. Jamie, of course, was very old. He was thirty-four today, even older than Eric’s father, who was only thirty-two. Eric wondered how it felt to have so many years and was suddenly, secretly glad that he was only eight. For today, Jamie looked old."

Two forms of irony are at work in this passage. First, there is the verbal irony that has to do with the free-indirect third-person narration. While Eric is not the narrator, the narrator nonetheless takes on aspects of the eight-year-old boy's perspective when describing Jamie as "of course...very old" at the age of 34. This is ironic because what the passage emphasizes is not that Jamie is old, but that Eric is very young; only a child would think of a 34-year-old as "very old."

But there's a second type of irony at work here, which only gets revealed at the end of the text. When Jamie strangles Eric, we see that in a surprising sense, Eric was right: Jamie lived much longer than Eric himself would end up living. His sense that reaching the age of 34 would make you "very old" comes true in a surprising sense. This is an instance of situational irony.

Vidal apologizes for being on time in "This Morning, This Evening, So Soon" (Verbal Irony)

When Vidal shows up to the narrator's apartment, the narrator is still getting ready. Vidal says, “I am, hélas!, on time. I trust you will forgive me for my thoughtlessness.” It's an example of verbal irony because generally it is thought to be considerate to be on time or early, but Vidal suggests that it would have been more polite for him to be late.

Lynching compared to July 4th picnic in "Going to Meet the Man" (Situational Irony)

Describing Jesse's perspective of the lynching he witnessed as a child, Baldwin writes, "By this time there were three cars piled behind the first one, with everyone looking excited and shining, and Jesse noticed that they were carrying food. It was like a Fourth of July picnic." The irony here is that Fourth of July is supposed to celebrate independence, but this mob execution serves as obvious evidence that independence in America has not been achieved for all people.