English Resource Center

Irony

 
Def'n: Irony involves a difference or contrast between appearance and reality - that is a discrepancy between what appears to be true and what really is true.
   
I. Irony exposes and underscores a contrast between:
  A. what is and what seems to be
  B. what is and what ought to be
  C. what is and what one wishes to be
  D. what is and what one expects to be
II. There are three common types of irony in literature:
  A. Verbal irony occurs when people say the opposite of what they mean. This is perhaps the most common type of irony.
   
  • The reader knows that a statement is ironic because of familiarity with the situation or a description of voice, facial, or bodily expressions which show the discrepancy.
  • There are two kinds of verbal irony :
    • Understatement occurs when one minimizes the nature of something.
    • Overstatement occurs when one exaggerates the nature of something.
   
  • Irony is often more emphatic that a point-blank statement of the truth. The opposite is shown as a point of comparison.
  • Verbal irony in its most bitter and destructive form becomes sarcasm .
  • Someone is condemned by a speaker pretending to praise him or her.
  B. • In situational irony , the situation is different from what common sense indicates it is, will be, or ought to be.
   
  • Situational irony is often used to expose hypocrisy and injustice.
  C. Dramatic irony occurs when a character states something that they believe to be true but that the reader knows is not true.
   
  • The key to dramatic irony is the reader's foreknowledge of coming events.
  • Second readings of stories often increases dramatic irony because of knowledge that was not present in the first reading.
 
Questions about irony
I. There are two general areas of questioning:
  A. What are the most obvious ironies in the work?
  B. What are their implications?
II. Verbal Irony:
   
  • If characters constantly use verbal irony, why?
  • What do we learn about their attitudes toward the world?
  • Does their verbal irony usually take the form of sarcasm?
  • Are they, then, bitter, disappointed people or simply realistic?
  • Does their disappointment stem from selfishness or altruistic idealism?
II. Situational Irony:
   
  • Do the situational ironies result from fate or human actions?
  • Are the characters aware of the situational ironies?
  • At what point do they become aware of them?
  • What is the author trying to illustrate by pointing out the irony?
  • Should the characters be blamed for creating the situational ironies or not understanding them?
  • Are the readers supposed to do something about the ironic situations - to reform society and ourselves?
III. Dramatic Irony:
   
  • What do the readers know about coming events or past events that the characters do not know?
  • When and what do they say that creates the disparity?
  • What does the author want us to think of them when they say these things?
  • Are the readers supposed to sympathize with them, or blame them for not being farsighted?
  • Are the ironies funny, painful, or serious?
     
      This is a pdf file with the information above.