Study Guide

Iralene Willux in Burn

By Julianna Baggott

Iralene Willux

The Good Wife

Oh, Iralene. She's tragic, she's docile, and she's completely off her rocker. But before you dismiss Iralene as a fembot or a Stepford Wife, remember that's she's been completely (and probably traumatically) conditioned to do one thing.

She's been engineered to be the perfect wife.

After all, her whole life was dictated by Ellery Willux. So her obsession with Partridge shouldn't be seen as codependence or romantic longing. Her obsession is literally how she was taught to operate in the world:

Iralene was raised to be the perfect wife, one who does as she's told. She's been groomed for her role so thoroughly that she seems always prepared, but that facade clouds her motives. (4.34)

Iralene seems like the kind of wife that only exists in 1950's sitcoms. Not only does she help Partridge kill his father—okay, maybe there was no murder on Leave It To Beaver— but she also puts up with his indifference towards her, and his impulsive ways. She's patient and obedient, which is exactly how she was made to function.

Everything in her life seems to be fake; her body, where she lives, who she is—she's the product of an evil man's manipulation. But she's not a fake person, and her love for Partridge is actually genuine:

"You might not have meant what you said today, but I did," Iralene says. "Just so you know. Sometimes I have to say what people want me to say or what I need to say to survive. Today, though, I meant it. Every word." (49.31)

And this genuine love is why we can't just pass her off as the crazy lunatic-wife of Partridge. She's been battered so badly emotionally that we have to feel for her. Plus, she's doing just what everyone outside of the Dome is doing: she's just trying to survive.

And yet, she's still desperate, hopeless, and sad. Despite her desire to live a normal, real life with Partridge, she can't run away from artificiality. When she's describing her fake house made from holograms, she tells Partridge:

"Come with me. I want to show you why you should tell them to stop. This will change everything. It will make everything right. You'll see." (62.56)

Iralene thinks it will change everything, but it won't. Her fake house with fake people and fake emotions is how her tragic life began, and how her tragic life will end. If you learn one Big Life Lesson from Iralene, it should be that fake = tragic.