After Tommy's suicide attempt, he is left blind. Tommy's physical blindness is ironic because it contrasts with his ability to see people and situations clearly. Even before his suicide attempt, Tommy was often critical of his parents because he could see their weaknesses and anxiety. He was also able to see Anna's struggle with writer's block and being honest with herself long before anyone else could. After he tries to commit suicide, Tommy becomes very close to Marion. Marion has not been taken seriously by the other characters, but Tommy sees the potential to raise her political consciousness. Tommy's blindness thus ironically contrasts with a reader's expectations: despite being physically unable to see, he is one of the few truly self-aware characters.
Free Women (Situational Irony)
At the start of the novel, Anna and Molly both position themselves as Free Women and seem to take pride in their status as unmarried single mothers who lead independent lives. The idea of being Free Women is revealed to be ironic because, in contrast to a reader's expectations, Anna's romantic and sexual relationships have a significant impact on her life and even on her career. Anna is not truly free because she cannot seem to stay away from men for any length of time, even when she knows a relationship is unlikely to benefit her. The end of her relationship with Michael devastates her and is a subject she becomes obsessed with. Anna's ability to reclaim her voice and start writing her second novel is also focalized through her experience with a man, with Saul Green being the one to give her the first line to her second novel. All of these episodes suggest that Anna's identity and happiness are deeply intertwined with her relationships to men—she is not at all free or independent.
Anna Becoming a Marriage Counselor (Situational Irony)
At the end of the novel, Anna decides to seek gainful employment as a kind of marriage counselor. This choice is ironic because, having seen Anna struggle to maintain a happy relationship herself, readers would not expect to see her in a role where she is giving advice to others. The choice of career path is also ironic because Anna has repeatedly had affairs with married men throughout the novel, suggesting that she does not take the idea of marriage seriously. The irony of this outcome is explicitly acknowledged when Anna quickly explains that she is good at other people's marriages, acknowledging that she has not been good at her own relationship. Evidently, she can recognize the ironic divergence between expectations and reality.
Paul's Death (Dramatic Irony)
In the black notebook, Anna writes about Paul Blackenhurst, a young RAF pilot who is training in Africa. Paul is killed in an accident on the day he is supposed to ship out for active duty. His death is ironic because, of all the pilots training, Paul had always been the least afraid and the most confident. He was not fearful of being killed, and yet he ends up being the one to die, while the others, who were far more anxious, end up surviving the war.
The Golden Notebook Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Golden Notebook is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.