Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Ironing—er,
The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Literary Terms
in a broad sense as “
a subtly humorous
perception of inconsistency, in which an apparently straightforward statement or event is undermined by its
context so as to give it a very different significance
” (Baldick 130).
All forms of irony thus involve
recognizing some kind of disparity or gap, usually between an apparent surface and an actual reality.
common in literature, irony is not merely a literary technique; forms of it pervade conversation, argument,
Here are five types of irony:
(#1) Verbal irony
can be defined as
expressing your meaning by saying the opposite, typically for
humorous or emphatic effect (that is, to be funny or to emphasize your point)
I said that all forms of irony
involve some kind of noticeable disparity—in verbal irony, that disparity is between what someone
what he/she actually
It can be helpful to think of verbal irony as
, only subtler.
For example, imagine a friend says about a
class, “Oh, that class is
That’s obviously sarcasm: the extra
emphasis your friend places on “great,” “love,” and “so” obviously indicate he/she doesn’t mean them.
irony would be rather similar, just less obvious—imagine the same statement, just without the obvious
You might only know your friend is being ironic because you know him/her well or
because you already know he/she didn’t enjoy the class.
Because of its subtlety, verbal irony is not always noticed—we sometimes wrongly assume someone is in
earnest when they are actually being ironic, or assume someone is being ironic when they are actually
Often, we have to know the person—some people are ironic more often than they are earnest (we might say
these people have an “ironic view of life”), and vice versa.
The same is true of writers: for example, we might
say that Oscar Wilde and Jonathan Swift have a primarily ironic view of the world (and for this we could call
”), while, say, Charles Dickens is generally more earnest.
(#2) Dramatic irony
a literary technique, typically intended for humor or emphasis, exploiting a
disparity between what a character says and either what it reveals about them OR what we as readers or
audience members know about them/their fate
When dramatic irony is used in a poem or story, we listen to what a character says, but we don’t take their
words at face value; instead, we try to figure out what their words
In dramatic irony, a character says
something, but we derive another meaning from it.
Certain genres are rife with dramatic irony, including dramatic tragedies (Oedipus talks about finding the