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An Explication of Eavan Boland’s “The Necessity for Irony Essay Sample

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An Explication of Eavan Boland’s “The Necessity for Irony Essay Sample

Eavan Boland’s poem “The Necessity for Irony” begins in narrative tone, when on a unremarkable Sunday Eavan, with her daughter, go browsing for antiques in town. However, by the end of the poem, Eavan’s tone is lyrical, as she sends an apostrophe to the “spirit of irony,” asking it to “reproach” her for focusing on antiques rather than what was truly beautiful, her child. Her dramatic shift in tone is slow and accomplished using various techniques.

In the first stanza of “The Necessity for Irony,” Eavan begins to build the antique shopping scene:

“On Sundays, when the rain held off, after lunch or later, I would go with my twelve year old daughter into town, and put down the time at junk sales, antique fairs.” (1-7)

The beginning of the poem is narrative; Boland crafts an image, each line adding an additional detail, of the Sunday she plans to spend antique shopping with her daughter. The stanza’s tone is emotionless and only gives details to Boland’s routine. Also, this stanza is one long sentence; when it is read, the tone is simply descriptive, and each line lacks emphasis and powerful feeling. Boland focuses this stanza on description of the setting.

In the second stanza Boland continues to describe the setting, and introduces her daughter:

There I would lean over tables, absorbed by place, wooden frames, glass. My daughter stood at the other end of the room, her flame-coloured hair obvious whenever– which was not often– ” (8-16)

Boland says it explicitly: she was “absorbed by / place, wooden frames, / glass.” Boland is absorbed by the antique-place, and ignores her daughter, who is in a different place, “at the other end of the room.” Here Boland introduces the physical distance between her and daughter, caused by Boland’s interest and her daughter’s apparent disinterest in these antiques, or Boland’s neglect to fully include her daughter in her antique hunting expeditions. Also, Boland can only describe her daughters location as it relates to the location of the antiques; Boland shows her antique-centric way of thinking.

But although Boland is “absorbed by / place, wooden frames, / glass,” her daughters “flame-coloured hair / obvious whenever– / which was not often– // I turned around” (14-17). Despite Boland’s fixation on the “wooden frames, / glass,” the “flame-coloured hair” of her daughter is obvious to her, on the rare occasion she turns around. Flames have a connotation of vitality, vibrancy and life, especially compared to what must be the dusty, worn and dull antique “wooden frames, / glass” that Boland is usually fixed upon. Thus Boland’s daughter’s “flame-coloured hair” is not only literally obvious, but the vitality and youth of her daughter is also obvious to Boland, and she knowingly disregards the fiery youth and vibrancy of her daughter in favor of the antiques.

After this acknowledgement of her daughters vitality and power, there is a dramatic shift in tone. Immediately after Boland’s first detail of her daughter, her “flame-coloured hair,” Boland’s tone begins to falter: “obvious whenever– / which was not often– // I turned around. / I turned around. / She was gone. / Grown” (15-20). The dashes at the ends of lines fifteen and sixteen create a sense of cliffhanging suspense, as if Boland is up against a wall, delaying an approaching dreaded revelation, before she finally breaks down and lets it out on in stanza three: “I turned around. / I turned around. / She was gone. / Grown.” After the long descriptive sentences of stanzas one and two, we are suddenly jabbed with four abrupt jarring sentences.

“She was gone,” has the terse grievous weight similar to “Jocasta is dead.” “Grown” also has the economy of words a person too in pain to speak uses. And by repeating “I turned around” twice, Boland conveys several meanings. One, it’s as if Boland had to do a double take to look for her daughter, as if she is in confused and shocked disbelief that “She was gone.” Also, because Boland is recalling these events from memory, it’s as if Boland keeps replaying the moment she “turned around,” in her head. For at this moment Boland not only realizes “She is gone,” but a flood of other realizations are opened up to her, which changes the tone of the poem from a descriptive narrative to a lyrical personal dialogue.

Boland continues in stanza three: “Grown. No longer ready / to come with me, whenever / a dry Sunday / held out it’s promises / of small histories. Endings.” (20-25). Here Boland writes literally that her daughter is no longer available to go searching with Boland for “small histories,” in this case, antiques. But the other meaning is Boland’s daughter is not available to create “small histories,” or memories with Boland. Boland closes this stanza with one word, “Endings,” to signify the end of dry Sunday’s “promises / of small histories,” or promises of days spent and memories formed with her daughter.

From the flat, injured tone of “Endings,” Boland transitions into a reflective tone:

“When I was young I studied styles: their use and origin. Which age was known for which ornament: and was always drawn to a lyric speech, a civil tone. But never thought I would have the need, as I do now, for a darker one:” (26-34) the guilt throughout the poem. Replaying the moment in her head, the obvious flame hair. 3 things: imagery, the narrative structure, the sentence length is meandering.

While hunting for antiques, lost treasures, Boland ironically lost the greatest treasure which he already possessed; time to spend with his daughter.

Stanza three, the promises of small histories are not the antiques, but the possibility of forming memories of time spent with is daughter. His memories of her are now antiques, and he suffers a dearth of these antique treasures, but there is no fair or junk sale he can go to to buy them.

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