I was flipping through “Madame Bovary”, written by Gustave Flaubert, when something struck me about a particular dialog. Rodolphe, a confirmed cad and runner-after-women is trying to seduce the pretty and bored wife of a country doctor, Emma.
The venue is an agricultural fair, and I am struck by how Flaubert manages to tell us exactly what he thinks of Rodolphe through the contrasting background voices that intrude into Rodolphe’s seductive monologue:
“Thus we,” he said, “why did we come to know one another? What chance willed it? It was because across the infinite, like two streams that flow but to unite; our special bents of mind had driven us towards each other.”
And he seized her hand; she did not withdraw it.
“For good farming generally!” cried the president.
“Just now, for example, when I went to your house.”
“To Monsieur Bizat of Quincampoix.”
“Did I know I should accompany you?”
“A hundred times I wished to go; and I followed you–I remained.”
“And I shall remain to-night, to-morrow, all other days, all my life!”
“To Monsieur Bain of Givry-Saint-Martin for a merino ram!”
“And I shall carry away with me the remembrance of you. But you will forget me; I shall pass away like a shadow.”
“To Monsieur Belot of Notre-Dame. Porcine race; prizes–equal, to Messrs. Leherisse and Cullembourg, sixty francs!”
I searched, then and searched some more, and figured out that this writing technique is called the ironic juxtaposition.
Use irony to hilarious effect by putting two contrary things together.
Have you found other examples of such writing, where the author uses the contrast to such telling effect?