Thursday, January 24, 2013

Irony in "There Was Once"

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Irony in “There Was Once”

The use of irony in the story “There Was Once” is the form of irony that we call verbal irony. It is basically about two people who bicker and complain about the use of cliches in a fairy tale story. It is a statement, really, about how much writers have come to rely on cliches, and how people have become brainwashed by them pretty much. Our story starts out with the first person telling a certain story. It begins, “There was once a poor girl, as beautiful as she was good, who lived with her wicked stepmother in a house in the forest.” (Pg. 57) This one sentence is FULL of things that we have all heard before. Almost every fairy tale that we have heard has started out like this, and contains characters who are beautiful, poor, and conflicted. They all have evil stepmothers, or there are witches, and they all find happiness in the end. So not like real life, but that’s the way it goes with most stories. “There Was Once” goes on, and there it turns out that the person is reading the story to a realist, and this person simply will not take this kind of storytelling anymore, obviously, as he/she starts throwing out criticisms and little sarcastic remarks and tries to make the story a bit more up to date and realistic. “Forest? Forest is passe, I mean, I’ve had it with all this wilderness stuff. It’s not the right image of our society, today. Let’s have some urban for a change.” (Pg. 57) This bothers the person telling the story, and they try to change it as best they can to fit this other person’s wishes. This person has problems with the fact that the main character in this story is poor, has a wicked stepmother, and is beautiful, and has hardly any flaws whatsoever. This story is as far from real life as it can possibly get, and this just isn’t a good thing. It must be stopped!

The author of this story, Margaret Atwood, makes a very good point throughout. I mean, today people seem to long for more realistic approaches to things. That has been one thing that I have noticed over the years. People can’t stand being lied to, or manipulated. Take films for instance. People are tired of seeing the same plots recycled over and over and over again. I know that I am. I work at a video store, and there are some people who come in complaining that this movie was basically the same as that movie, and that there wasn’t much of a difference. Then, there are others who, sadly, sell out for cliche-ridden movies and REFUSE, absolutely REFUSE to embrace anything that’s different or original. Anything that requires a little bit of thought or a bit of analyzing is something that they’d rather avoid all together. I simply don’t understand this. I think it is very sad. I often wonder what its going to be like years from now, and what the movie industry will be like. Will producers and film makers succumb to the outcries of the redneck movie going public and continue to shovel out so much crap, that there are hardly any unique, provocative films to be seen? This scares me, and this story that I read PERFECTLY captures what I am trying to say. I have felt this very same way for the longest time, and when I read this story, it just blew me away. I’m NOT the only person who thinks this way! What is wrong with wanting something different? What is wrong with wanting realism? DON”T LIE TO ME. Tell me like it really is. Please! That’s what I want. A little bit of cliche is good now and then, but when you over do it, it can be dangerous and sad. I mean, hey, I work at a video store, and you should see some of the people that come in there. Enough said. It’s like I was saying..in this story there is a person who longs for originality, and she keeps constantly beating this into the narrators mind. If the “beautiful” princesses wicked stepmother makes her sleep in the fireplace, you know for a fact that she is not poor. The person on the other end makes a point. If she is poor, then why does she live in a house that just happens to have a fireplace? This is not the dwelling of a lower class individual. “Aha! They had a fireplace! With poor, let me tell you, there’s no fireplace. Come down to the park, come to the subway stations after dark, come down to where they sleep in cardboard boxes, and I’ll show you poor!” (Pg. 58) Once again, the real world. Also, the issues of physical appearance and race also come up into the conversation. Usually, the main character in fairy tales is a beautiful woman who is white and doesn’t have the tiniest flaw. Now, what would be wrong with it if you made her an average individual? How would people respond to that? “...Women these days have to deal with too many intimidating physical role models as it is......Can’t you make her, well, more average?” (Pg. 58) Soon, the narrator starts to change the story around a bit more. It begins to sound more like something out of real life. Something that average people would HATE. Put this kind of story or movie out in the theaters or on the shelf and just see how many tickets or books would be sold. “There was once a girl, as average-looking as she was well-adjusted, who lived with her stepmother, who was not a very open and loving person because she had been abused in childhood.” (Pg. 5) Another thing that you may have noticed in the last quote, was that it brings up the issue of the “wicked” stepmother. The thing that most fairy tales forget to tell us is WHY this woman is the way she is. Maybe it would give the character a bit more depth. Hmmm. I guess we’ll never know, but I love that this short story brings up the issue. I almost died laughing. All in all, this piece raises issues that most people would never give a second thought. I believe that today, our society needs to start thinking about these sorts of things. I, for one, tend to get a little sick of all the brainwashing. The point that the author and also a point that I am trying to make is to all the people out there Embrace originality, and appreciate the things which are unique and different. At least give them a chance, and you may end up appreciating it!



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