In life, we compare and contrast things every day. Take a shopping trip. We hold up a pair of sneakers and compare it to a pair of shoes. Which is more expensive? Which has better quality? Which one looks cooler? All of these questions help us figure out which product to buy and which to leave on the shelf. In literature, as in life, readers can make the same kind of comparisons. In “Biderbiks Don’t Cry” by Avi, young Charlie Biderbik struggles to impress his father, Mr. Biderbik, who pressures Charlie to be a strong young man. In “Irony,” a poem by Louis Untermeyer, the speaker examines the issue of eternal life. These texts are fundamentally different, but they share at least one significant element.
The major difference between the poem “Irony” and the short story “Biderbiks Don’t Cry” is their genres. The most striking characteristic of “Biderbiks Don’t Cry” is that it is a story. Like most short stories, it includes a plot. The action starts with Charlie approaching his father for advice about a dance. After attending the dance, a gang beats up Charlie, and his father, upon hearing the news, shows disappointment in his son. In addition, the story also has characters, like Charlie and Mr. Biderbik, who are the main characters, as well as Mrs. Biderbik, Arlo, the gang, and the community members, who are minor characters. Finally, the story has a developed conflict, which exists between Charlie and his father because they hold different values for manhood. On the contrary, “Irony” is poem, not a short story. As a typical poem, it does not have plot; instead, it includes the thoughts of a speaker, who considers one of life’s ironies. Unlike the story, the poem does not have characters. Instead, it contains the speaker, who seems to be frustrated about the human condition. Lastly, while the story has a developed conflict, the poem only introduces a problem; the speaker does not extend the problem with a series of events that might complicate it as a narrator might do in a short story.
While “Irony” and “Biderbiks Don’t Cry” represent different genres of literature, they both convey a sense of irony. Disappointed by his son’s behavior at the fight, domineering Mr. Biderbik calls for a meeting of the community. When the people of his neighborhood are assembled at the church, Mr. Biderbik stands up and tells them that Charlie gave a tough fight against the gang. Hearing this, Charlie stands up and confronts his father in front of the community, saying, “My father… he thinks I was a coward… It doesn’t matter to him that I could… have been hurt. Or killed. That’s why my father called this meeting… It’s because my father is ashamed of his son… He’s afraid that people will think badly of him. Because of me. But I think… he’s the coward.” This is ironic because bold Mr. Biderbik tries to teach his fearful son to stand up to bullies. Charlie does, in fact, avoid a fight with the characters who appear to be the bullies, so his father lies, depicting Charlie as a brave boy, but only to make himself look better. Now, Charlie, who is supposed to be a coward, commits the bravest act of the story by standing up to the true bully, his father. Similarly, at the end of the first stanza of the poem, the speaker says, “A pebble in the roadway lies / it never dies.” Later, at the end of the second stanza, the speaker says, “But Man is great and strong and wise / and so he dies.” The irony is that inanimate objects, that lack consciousness and can not appreciate life, exist endlessly, forever. Meanwhile, Man, who has the capacity to appreciate life, is mortal and therefore dies. So, while one might expect the conscious being to live forever, enjoying all that life has to offer, the opposite is true; Man dies, while a seemingly meaningless object, like a pebble, “outlives” him.
So, in the end, “Irony” and “Biderbiks Don’t Cry” are somewhat similar and somewhat different. The main element they have in common is irony, while their key difference is their genres. Ultimately, a comparison of “Irony” and “Biderbiks Don’t Cry” demonstrates that sometimes in life we can understand something better by holding it up against something else something that might seem quite different from it and by observing closely how these items compare.