Olive Kitleridge's Irony Analysis

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In Pharmacy by Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kittleridge is portrayed as an angry, quick to react woman who rarely, if ever, shows any signs of happiness. She frequently responds to her husband, Henry, with harsh and judgmental comments even though he never speaks to her this way. While it is never written in the story, it is clear that Olive is not happy with her life, yet does not proceed with changing it. Olive’s misery and dissatisfaction is shown through her dialogue with Henry, lack of action throughout the story, and her unspoken love for someone other than her husband.
The most obvious way in which Olive’s misery is shown is through her conversations that she has with her husband Henry. Throughout the story there are very few times where
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The only time in the story she leaves the house is to attend Henry Thibodeau’s funeral. While at home she is usually performing typical wifely duties. More than once, however, she harshly tells Henry that she is not a maid or servant, although she is never spoken to like one. The first time that this happens is when Henry tells Olive he wants to have Denise and her husband over for dinner. Although Olive clearly disagrees with the idea, Henry makes it clear that his mind is made up. He does not speak to her as though he demands this, instead he is calm and says it is the right thing to do. Olive, on the contrary, replies with sarcasm saying “then that’s that, Mr. President… Give your order to the cook.” (Strout, 6). Olive instantly takes a conversation about dinner in which she disapproves and makes it about her own dissatisfaction. Instead of talking to Henry the way those in a happy marriage should, she quickly turns it into a master – slave relationship. The second time she refers to herself in such a way is soon after the dinner with the Thibodeaus. One night she slams a bowl down yelling, “All I do is cook and clean and pick up after people… People just waiting for me to serve them, with their faces hanging out.” (Strout, 13). There is no extenuating circumstance here that causes Olive to say this, rather it is just a random outburst which hints that this isn’t just a random …show more content…
While there is never any mention of an actual relationship, Olive is clearly very favorable towards Jim. Jim is a teacher at the school that Olive teaches at and Christopher attends. The first time he is mentioned is after an unresolved argument between Olive and Henry, where she casually mentions the way his car smelt before saying that he has brought both Christopher and herself to school for years. After another argument starting with Henry telling Christopher he needs to do more around the house, Olive says that Jim is much more sympathetic than Henry, who is barely present at all in their child’s life. Not only is she praising Jim here, but she is speaking of him as though he is more of a father figure to their son than Henry is. This is because both Henry and Jim see Christopher every day, yet Henry is too distracted in his own world with Denise. Olive makes Henry the odd one out in this picture, not Jim. At the end of the story when Denise has left Henry’s life except for the card she sends him each year, he compares his current dismay towards Olive’s at the time of Jim’s death. After a car accident, “Olive spent weeks going straight to bed after supper, sobbing harshly into a pillow…Olive had loved Jim O’Casey, though Henry never asked her and she never told.” (Strout, 29). This reaction shows that Jim’s death

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