The present study examines the spiritual development of the main characters in the novel The Discreet Hero (2013) by Mario Vargas Llosa, and the aim is to show how irony provides the reader with reflections upon the meaning of individual freedom. The hypothesis suggests that the characters, representing different social and cultural groups of today’s Peruvian society, try to free themselves from surrounding threats and thereby obtain what Isaiah Berlin (1971) terms negative or positive freedom.
The analysis focuses on narrative irony, which operates on three levels of the text: firstly, what it linguistically hides by telling something different, secondly, the discrepancy that emerges between narration and what lies underneath and thirdly, the dialectic ideas that impregnate the text and transmit the ambiguity of the work (Tittler 1984). Ethical irony, according to which the characters of narrative are incoherent figures that pursue coherence (Handwerk 1985), is also included.
The study shows that irony problematizes in what ways the characters perceive individual freedom. All of them experience negative freedom, which emerges when authorities fail in their support and protection of the citizens despite political and economic freedom. In order to obtain positive freedom, individual ethical and social responsibility, knowledge of self and cultural refinement are essential. Through irony, it becomes clear that positive freedom depends on a democratic society and individual values.
Copyright (c) 2019 Vigdis Ahnfelt
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