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December 2009
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Irony: A Definition

What is irony? Irony is a literary device or comic device that a writer can use to craft a humorous piece of writing. Its intention is to generate a comic effect. The problem with using irony is that it is often a misunderstood form of humour. Many readers or members of the audience fail to “get it.” As well, humour is cultural specific. What is ironic in one culture might not be ironic in another. Irony is also a difficult device to master, as there is a fine line between irony and sarcasm. Many of the great writers have used irony in their writing, including Shakespeare, George Orwell, Charles Dickens, and Mark Twain. Today, many satirists who write columns or articles use the literary device of irony.

There are three types of irony:

  • Verbal irony. The speaker or writer means the opposite of what he/she says. Essentially, it is the humorous use of words to imply something different, and usually opposite, to the literary meaning. Example: Something unfortunate occurs, and the person says, “This is so lovely.” What the person really means is that he/she is upset.
  • Situational irony. It is the incongruity between what is expected and what actually occurs. For instance, an employee is called into the office expecting to get fired. Instead, the boss gives the employee a pay increase.
  • Dramatic irony. The reader or audience knows more about the character or plot in the story or play than the characters themselves. Essentially, the dialogue and actions of the characters in the story have a different meaning for the reader or audience than they do for the characters themselves.  Dramatic irony can also mean that the readers or audience knows more about the immediate circumstances or future events of the story than the characters. George Orwell, in his novel “Animal Farm”, uses dramatic irony to show the difference between what animals are aware of and what the reader recognizes.


Next, I will write about satire.


1 Comment

  1. Thanks mate! I was looking for something pretty much along the lines of this the entire day. Do you guys offer a subscription service? If so, how can I subscribe?

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