Situational Irony in ‘The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad’ Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Jul 31st, 2018

‘The Secret Agent’ by Joseph Conrad is political novel which was set in London and published in the early twentieth century. Although the novel has got other themes, terrorism is among the most outstanding issues that have been discussed through out the whole story.

The main character in the novel is Mr. Verloc who is a secret agent. He is a shop owner and trades in pornographic materials. Other characters that are important include the wife of Mr. Verloc, his mother in law as well as his brother in law who suffers from a mental condition. The novel majors in explaining the work life of Verloc as well as his family life.

It has a tragic ending since the brother in law dies and Verloc is stabbed by his wife to death who goes missing after trying to run away. The story has been presented in various ways to capture the attention of the audience and to make it interesting. Situational irony has been greatly and this essay shall discuss the use of the same.

Conrad has used irony to such a great extent as it has been noted by most people who have read the story. Situational irony which has been used occurs when there is a difference between the events that take place and the expected events. For instance, in the German / Australian Embassy in the introductory part, things turn out opposite of what was initially expected.

The councilor states that “We are not very satisfied with the attitude of the police here” (Conrad pp. 12). Councilor Wurmt starts by doubting the vigilance of the policemen from England but latter came to the realization that they were by far more vigilant than his initial expectations.

More often than not, presence of a mother in law in the house causes not only conflicts but may also lead to a family breakup. It was expected that the presence of Winnie’s mother in Mr. Verloc’s home would annoy him and cause him to hate his brother in law who was mentally disabled.

Instead, Mr. Verloc appreciated Stevie even more. Nevertheless, the actions of the Winnie’s mother had far many severe consequences because due to Mr. Verloc taking more notice of Stevie, he used him to deposit the bomb which later caused not only his death but also the death of the husband and wife. It was unexpected that the action of the mother in law would lead to the death of his son, his son in law and eventually his daughter.

The author majors in using the situation irony especially in relation to the death of Stevie. It was unexpected that the death of Stevie will end up being so consequential. After the death, Mr. Verloc makes an attempt to pacify his wife but instead, Mrs. Verloc becomes agitated and stabs his husband to death. Worse still, after committing the murder, Mrs. Verloc resolves to escape from her own village which she succeeds. However, she goes missing towards the end of the book and it is believed that she had committed suicide through drowning.

Use of Stevie to deposit Verloc’s bomb has lead to a lot of unexpected outcome. It does not only lead to the breakdown of the family but also to the death of some of the main characters: Mr. Verloc and his wife. It is quite ironic how Conrad uses situational irony not only to maintain the tone of the story but also to make it interesting.

In addition, irony helps to create more suspense and therefore, helps to capture the attention of the audience. Through out the whole story, is it is clear that trivial actions are causing unexpected results. For instance, were it not for the fact that Winnie had sewn the address of the house on the collar of Stevie; he would not have been identified after the explosion.

Coincidentally, while Winnie was escaping from her home place, she managed to meet Ossipona, a man who falls in love with her. The man believes that it is out of good luck he has managed to meet Winnie and decides to move on with her. However, after discovering that Winnie had killed her husband, Ossipona not only plans to break up with her, but also to stop relating with women and opts to become a drunkard. It is ironic that just by meeting one woman who had killed her husband; Ossipona is put off completely (Conrad pp. 194).

As highlighted in the introductory part, Conrad has succeeded in the use of situational irony. Most of the events in the story led to the occurrence of the unexpected results. For instance, a trivial event may become more consequential or a very important event may lead to trivial consequences.

For example, in their aim to make Stevie more presentable to Verloc, Winnie and her mother ended up making him not only to be loyal but also docile. As a result, it was easy for him to be manipulated by Verloc and be made to carry the bomb which led to his death. Therefore, it cannot be an understatement to conclude that Conrad has succeeded in using situational irony to contribute to the comic effect thorough out the whole story.

Work Cited

Conrad, Joseph. The Secret Agent. Stilwell: Publishing , 2007. Print.

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