The Use of Irony in Barbara L. Greenberg's The Faithful Wife

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The Use of Irony in Barbara L. Greenberg's The Faithful Wife

"The Faithful Wife" by Barbara L. Greenberg is a fascinating, satirical account of what the speaker would do if she were unfaithful to her husband. Upon the first reading of this poem, I thought the woman in this poem was saying that her husband was irreplaceable and because of that she would never be unfaithful. Also I thought that if she did betray him, she would choose someone totally different from him, which somehow wouldn't dishonor this great man. However, with repeated reading, my opinion changed. Greenberg did an incredible job of revealing the truth of the situation. She used verbal irony to explain how the wife in the poem is actually revealing the relationship
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Instead, we would say something like "We would eat at Howard Johnson's because you don't like it." This more formal conversation and speaker's tone, which is condescending, suggests a detachment the wife feels toward her husband.

Greenberg is so clever with the use of verbal irony throughout the poem. The wife is really being sarcastic to her husband, in an attempt to reveal her desires that are evidently ignored. The main line that triggered my understanding was, "Not strong, not proud, not just, not provident, my lover would blame me for his heart's distress, which you would never think to do" (630). Once again, I initially thought she was complimenting her husband and showing him great respect. This strong, proud, just and provident man seemed perfect. However, the choice of words "...my lover would blame me for his heart's distress..." is what enlightened my thinking (630). The wife wanted to be so important to her husband that she would be the only thing that causes him distress. She actually resents this prideful man who seems to make everything else more important that her.

There is even irony in the poem's title, "The Faithful Wife." Yes, the speaker is a faithful wife, but because of duty not because of the desires of her heart. The desires of her heart are all the things she says she and her lover would do. The message to her husband is that he is doing the complete opposite of what she
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