What is Irony? There may be many times that you will hear the use of irony in an English conversation or see it in written text, but it can be confusing to understand if you are not sure how it is used. In this article, we are going to look at what irony is and what different types of irony there are. We will look at examples of these different types of irony used in both the literature and in everyday situations.
Irony is a form of the figure of speech in which the person delivering the ironic statement says something which is completely opposite to what they mean or what the reality of the situation is. Irony can also be used to set the tone of a situation without the use of any speech at all.
Irony can be used in a sarcastic sense to display the opposite meaning of what is happening in reality.
Types of Irony
What are the different types of irony?
There are three different types of irony, each of which is used in a slightly different way but all have the same meaning of showing the opposite of what is happening.
The first type of irony is verbal irony which is used in speech. It is used when a person wants to express something using speech which says the opposite of what they mean. For example, if it were a very cold day, a person using verbal irony might say something like; “Isn’t it warm today!”
The second type of irony is situational irony. This is used when a situation does not have the outcome which was expected in the first instance. For example, if a fire station were to burn down, this would situational irony as this is the building that is meant to protect from fire.
The final type of irony is dramatic irony which is when an audience knows a situation or information which the character is not aware of. In a real-life situation, it is applied when something happens and the person within the situation is unaware of the true reality. For example, if a person were to say “I am so glad that I wasn’t in that car accident”, only to be involved in a car accident moments later, this would be dramatic irony.
Examples of Irony in Speaking
We are going to look at irony in spoken language which you may hear day today.
- “What a kind daughter you have.” said the woman to the mother after her daughter just pushed her own child.
- “How lovely of you to cook me dinner.” said the husband when he saw his wife had only made food for herself.
- “Aren’t we having some lovely weather.” said the man as he noticed it was raining again.
- “Aren’t you an ugly fellow.” said to an extremely good looking man.
- Someone gets up late and rushes around to get ready to go to work, only to then realise it is Sunday.
- A police station which ends up getting broken into.
- “Well, this is just the best day ever.” said the bus driver as his bus broke down for the third time that day.
- The bus is which is always late, arrives early on the only day I arrive at the bus stop late.
- Someone is trying to avoid becoming wet, then gets caught in a rain shower.
- A gardener who cannot grow his own garden plants.
- “This situation is as clear as mud.” said the woman when looking at the confusing job laid out in front of her.
- Using the term “Oh brilliant” when a situation is far from being brilliant.
- When you find yourself with a spout of bad luck, you might say “I guess that today is my lucky day.”
- A Facebook post is complaining about how terrible Facebook is.
Examples of Irony in Literature
There are many times in which writers will use irony within their work to give a contrasting or contradictory meaning to it. We will now take a look at some examples of times irony has been used in written work
- In the Harry Potter series of books, Harry must kill his enemy, Lord Voldemort, but the only way to do this is by dying himself.
- In the play of the same name by William Shakespeare, Othello is fooled by his friend’s loyalty, but the audiences know that his friend is actually plotting against him.
- In the mythical story of Oedipus, he is told that he is going to kill his parents and so he flees in order to avoid doing this. In reality, the audience knows that Oedipus is, in fact, adopted and so will kill his biological parents, whom he does not know.
- In the play, Julius Caesar, written by William Shakespeare, Brutus, who has committed the murder of the title character is referred to as “an honorable man” numerous times.
- The story of Tess of the D’Urbervilles shows a potential suitor believing that he is about to meet a pure and virginal woman in Tess, but the audiences are aware that she, in fact, has a child and is not so pure.
- In the movie The night of the living dead, the main character manages to survive the night free from harm, but when the police arrive, they presume that he is a zombie and shoots him dead.
- In The necklace by Guy de Maupassant, a couple lose a necklace belonging to a friend and so make sacrifices to replace it. They then learn many years later that the necklace was not genuine.
Having looked at the different types of irony, we can see that there are three main types, verbal, situational and dramatic irony. Each of these different types of irony is used in a different way but all convey the same meaning overall and that is using contradiction.
Irony can be used in both day-to-day conversations and situations as well as being regularly used within written texts such as novels, plays and songs.
Irony | Infographic 1
Irony | Infographic 2