Purpose of Irony in T. Boyle’s “Carnal Knowledge”
In his story “Carnal Knowledge T. Boyle uses multiple ironic elements to reveal the main character’s attempts to sacrifice one basic instinct in order to satisfy another, as well as showing unpredictable consequences of those attempts.
Eating and having sex are two of the most basic and vital things for a male. Both stem from the need to maintain and create life. The ways those instincts are satisfied can be very different and sometimes they even stand on the way of each other. These rare situations can be extremely difficult and sometimes even ironic.
The author tells a story about Jim’s character and feelings. He is an average guy with a stable job and normal life. He appears quite normal and satisfied with his life in general. The only problem for him is the struggle finding a loving female partner. From the very beginning Boyle makes it obvious that Jim is not a vegetarian and that he loves to eat meat. “ Beef, pork, mutton, venison, dripping burgers, and greasy ribs-it was all the same to me, something to savor a moment on the tongue, before the digestive system went to work on it” (569). “It came between slices of bread, it sputtered and smoked on a grill”(569). The first paragraph ironically describes delicious meat products in the supermarket and various ways it is consumed. Although perhaps it is not the most ironic part, it plays an important role; it foreshadows the ridiculousness of the future events in the story, and sets the stage for Jim’s inner conflict.
When Jim meets Alena Jorgensen who is an eager vegetarian activist. It happens under quite ironic circumstances. Their first meeting takes place right before Thanksgiving-a holiday during which turkey is a symbol and plays an important role. Ironically Jim has no idea that his life is about to change. When Alena’s dog empties its bladder on Jim while he is dozing off in the park, his first reaction is anger. “Rage seized me” “I...