Irony is a literary device that uses contradictory statement. Here the readers will find definition, 4 types of irony as well as its examples.
- 1 Definition
- 2 Common Examples of Irony:
- 3 Types of Irony
- 3.1 1 – Verbal Irony
- 3.2 2 – Dramatic or Tragic Irony
- 3.2.1 Functions of Dramatic Irony
- 3.2.2 Examples of Dramatic Irony in Literature
- 3.2.3 “Oedipus Rex” (by Sophocles)
- 3.2.4 Dr. Faustus by (Christopher Marlow)
- 3.2.5 “The Odyssey” (By Homer)
- 3.2.6 “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (By Victor Hugo’s)
- 3.2.7 “The Davinci Code”,(by Dan Brown’s)
- 3.2.8 “Macbeth” (by Shakespeare)
- 3.2.9 “Othello” (by Shakespeare)
- 3.3 3 – Situational irony
- 3.4 4 – Cosmic Irony
A literary device that uses contradictory statements or situations to reveals a reality different from what appears to be true. In irony, the literal meaning and intended meaning are opposite to each other and there can be great contrast between them. In other words, the narrator speaks one thing but the same means another.
According to “Professor Chevaliar”, “The basic feature of every irony is a contrast between appearances and reality”.
Common Examples of Irony:
- Henry sold out his old bicycle in a good price by making temporary polish to it; he has good sense to earn money. The ironical implication is that Henry earned money by deceiving someone.
- Bob use to watch movies late at night, therefore cannot get up early in the morning. The bad habit of Bob has been described in ironical form.
- Joe use to play gambling and takes drinks, therefore he said to possess fashionable habits. Here the ironical implication of bad habit of Joe has been shown.
- He is a famous lawyer who always stands with the accused side. Here the ironical implication about professional dealing of a lawyer has been ironically described.
- Jessy wears a dress only one time and use to wear new dress daily. Ironical implication of Jessy’s habit has been described.
- Shyna use to do her homework while sitting in front of T.V. The ironic form of Shyna’s interest towards his studies has been disclosed.
- Tercia is elder in the class as he is studying in same class about three years. Here the irony about Tercia’s failure has been discussed.
Types of Irony
There are four major forms of irony.
- Verbal irony
- Dramatic or Tragic Irony
- Situational Irony
- Cosmic irony
1 – Verbal Irony
Verbal irony usually functions by exploiting deviations from syntactic or semantic rules. It is to mean something different from what the person actually says. In simple words, when you utter some words in praise of some-one but you are not actually mean to do so rather to highlight the negative aspect of his/her personality. Verbal irony includes, ‘under statement’ and ‘over statement’.
‘Under statement’ is when the situation is totally different but it is being represented in a light manner.
For example: Johnson lost the badminton match with 21-0 and he is saying that he did not play well today. This is something like under statement as he performed not ‘well’ but “very badly’’.
‘Over Statement’ is when there is considerable appreciation upon the minor achievement.
Example: After obtaining 50% marks in the exams, Julia’s father purchased a car for her. Here the big award over a less achievement has been ironically described.
Example in Literature
“Rape of the lock” (by Pope)
Whether the nymph shall break Diana’s law,
Or some frail china jar receive a flaw;
Or stain her honour, or her new brocade;
Forget her prayers, or miss a masquerade.
“Julius Caesar” (by William Shakespeare)
In ‘Julius Caesar’, Antony’s insistence, in his oration over the dead Caesar, that ‘Brutus is an honourable man’ bears an explicitly verbal irony. Antony actually was considering ‘Brutus’ responsible for the murder of ‘Caesar’, so he used ironical expression of his rage against ‘Brutus’.
“The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales” (by Chaucer)
Chaucer remarks about the “Knight” shows his irony when he says,
“He was a varray, parfit gentil knight”
Than his ironical tribute to “Mock”,
“A manly man to been an abbot able”
The ironical expressions used by Chaucer are about their dishonesty and hypocritical attitude, as what they are and what they are doing.
‘Chaucer’ also discusses ‘The wife of bath’ and praises her charitable nature in ironical manner pointing out that “she goes out of all charity if some other woman takes precedence over her in making the offering”.
2 – Dramatic or Tragic Irony
‘Dramatic irony’ occurs when audience is aware of something about what to happen next in the story but the characters themselves not. In ‘Dramatic irony’, audience has more information about the circumstances than a character. For instance, the audience knows that a character is going to be murdered or will make a decision of committing suicide; however, one particular character or others may not be aware of these facts. Shortly, the words and actions of characters would suggest a different meaning to the audience from what they indicate to the characters and the story, thus it creates intense suspense and humor.
Example: 1. When you know a trap has been set and watch someone walk into it that is dramatic irony.
2. Reading a detective book by the friend of a ‘detective’ and he himself does not know about his friend.
Functions of Dramatic Irony
1. Many writers use this technique in order to clarify their writing and excite the reader’s interest.
2. It puts audience, readers above the character, and also encourage them to anticipate, hope and fear the moment when a character would learnt the truth behind events and situation of the story.
3. This technique of irony is used in tragedies where readers are lead to sympathize with leading character.
Examples of Dramatic Irony in Literature
“Oedipus Rex” (by Sophocles)
“if someone knows the killer in a stranger,
From some-other state, let him not stay mute, I pray, too.
that, if he should become an honoured guest in my own home
and with my knowledge I may suffer all those things
I’ve just called down upon the killers.”
Here ‘Oedipus’ declares that the murderer who has killed ‘Laius’ might also kill him, not realizing the fact that he himself is the murderer. In the play, ‘Oedipus’ seeks to expose the murderer of King Liaus to solve this enigma.
Dr. Faustus by (Christopher Marlow)
‘Faustus’ famous lines for Alexander beautiful paramour are shown his irony,
“Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships,
and burnt the topless towers of ilium?
It is inevitably “no”, and this never enunciated “no” constitutes a major dramatic irony in the play. This irony underlies the beautiful appeal when he next says,
“Sweet Helen, gave me immortal with a kiss”
“The Odyssey” (By Homer)
It is homer’s epic poem. ‘Odysseus’ while concealing his real appearance came home to ascertain his wife faithfulness but the audience knows that it is in fact Odysseus.
“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (By Victor Hugo’s)
Quasimodo escapes Esmeralda from the gypsies, who are bent upon to harm her. In fact, the audience knows that he is coming to rescue her.
“The Davinci Code”,(by Dan Brown’s)
‘Brown’ enables the readers by using dramatic irony to go inside the George Washington Masonic Memorial.
“Macbeth” (by Shakespeare)
‘Macbeth’ pretends to be loyal to ‘Duncan’ but inwardly he was making plan of his murder. Audience knows the loyalty of Macbeth which was actually his deceive act. When King Duncan has been murdered by Macbeth and the porter of Macbeth’s castle has had his full share in the general feasting and drinking in honour of the King’s visit and in his drunken humour imagines that he is porter at the gate of hell. ‘Irony’ thus helps to increase the tragic intensity of the scenes preceding and following.
“Othello” (by Shakespeare)
The audience knows that ‘Iago’ is manipulating ‘Othello’ while he considers lago to be honest with him.
3 – Situational irony
Situational irony exists when there is an absurdity between what is expected to happen and what actually happens due to forces beyond human comprehension or control. The context of situational irony may be mostly social, moral or metaphysical.
For example: When a person purchase a gun to protect himself and suddenly a dacoit committed dacoity and injured him with his own gun, this is called situational irony.
Difference between situation vs. Co-incidence
Sometimes, the two terms ‘situation’ and ‘co-incidence’ take altogether to each other but there is a difference in these terms. ‘Dacoity’ with a common man is a co-incidence but when this occurrence is happened with the policeman, this is a situation.
Examples of Situational irony in literature:
1. In “Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poem “Richard Roy”, the suicide of the successful main character is an example of situational irony.
2. In “The Gift’s by “O’ Henry”, the incomplete desire of a couple, “Della & Jim” to exchange gifts to each other on Christmas day is an example of situational irony.
3. On the highway, “Joseph Andrews” robed by thieves and left naked bleeding in a ditch, a situation which ‘Fielding’ gave opportunity to observe the behavior of the passengers of a coach with irony. They are hypocrite persons. The ‘coach-man’ thinks about his schedule and fare. The lady present there says, ‘O Jesus’, “A naked man! Dear Coach-man drive on”.
4. The strange attitude of ‘Parson Tulliber’ with ‘Adams’ is also the form of irony. When Adams goes to Tulliber to borrow some money but he humiliates him by pushing into pigsty and asks him to handle hogs. Tulliber says, “I know what charity is better than to give it to vagabonds”
Difference between Verbal, Dramatic & Situational Irony
Verbal irony is used to speak about the person opposite which one meant.
Dramatic irony is when the character does not know about his fate but readers are observing about it.
Happening of something opposite to what one ponders is a situational irony.
4 – Cosmic Irony
‘Cosmic irony’ occurs when a writer uses destiny or fate to dash the hopes and expectations of a character of humankind in general. In cosmic irony, a difference exists between what a character seeks to and what universal forces deliver.
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