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Irony

Irony is used in order to indirectly call attention to a point that is different from the specific words a given person is using. For example, if someone were to say in a snide tone of voice that he just "loves" a given book, this would actually mean that he does not care for the book at all. Irony is thus a very important tool for indirect communication, or when one wishes to call attention to some state of affairs that cannot be addressed in a direct way. 

Defining irony

Irony is the expression of one’s meaning using language that normally signifies the opposite, generally to humorous or emphatic effect. An ironic situation is one which is contrary to what is expected. Using irony as a literary technique originated with Greek tragedy, in which the opposite of a character’s words and actions are clear to the audience. In this instance, the character is not aware of the irony, but the audience is. Irony is the difference between the appearance of a situation and the reality. As a figure of speech, irony means that words are used in a way that makes their meaning opposite from the actual meaning.

The two types

There are two types of irony used in literature. The first is verbal irony, and the second is situational irony.

Verbal irony

Verbal irony involves saying something one does not mean. For instance, if a person responds with “That sounds wonderful!” when a long, cold, trek through a winter landscape is proposed, the person is being ironic.

Situational irony

Situational irony is when one person is amused as someone’s misfortune when the same misfortune is about to befall the amused person. Dramatic irony is often used by writers to convey a change of fortune for one or many characters. None of the characters involved in situational irony are aware of the real situation they are in, and neither is the audience. In dramatic irony, only the audience is aware of situation, and not the characters. Onstage and in literature, irony is a valuable tool used to explain the plot or engage the audience; but in reality irony can be amusing, offensive, or very bitter.

Literary examples

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is an example of dramatic irony. The audience knows that Juliet has only temporarily drugged herself in order to die to those who oppose her love of Romeo. Unfortunately, Romeo does not know this, and kills himself at her side just before she awakes. Situational irony was used in Romeo and Juliet when Juliet first spies Romeo and orders, “Go ask his name,” to her the Nurse. She follows it with the following statement, “—If he be married, my grave is like to be my wedding bed.” This is situational irony because the audience (assuming they have not seen or read the play before) and the characters are unaware that Juliet will be dead on her wedding day.

In Samuel T. Coleridge’s famous poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, ship is stranded upon the ocean with no land in sight.

"Water, water, everywhere,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, everywhere,

Nor any drop to drink."

The purpose of using irony as a literary device is to add meaning; in some conversation or literary situations irony may lighten the mood, or add another layer of meaning. Since life is fraught with double entendres (meaning double meanings), irony is quite valuable in individual expression and criticism of the status quo in society.

George Orwell’s novels are ironic, and a true understanding of their meaning is impossible to gain unless that irony is detected and understood. In 1984, the author uses both satire and irony in order to present a dystopian world in which the ruling party idealized “Big Brother.” Each branch of the government performs the opposite of the task for which it is named, and controls the populace with doublethink which is thinking two contradictory thoughts at the same time. The ruling party’s slogan is “War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength.”

If you don't know which form of irony to use, you can always buy an essay and ask a professional writer to give you an example.

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