What Is Irony? Essay, Research Paper
Irony is a method of assertion used by authors in literature and poetry. Although many writers have employed this literary technique for centuries, the meaning of the word can be difficult to understand. This essay will help to describe the correct meaning of this diverse word and illustrate how it is used.
The Canadian Intermediate Dictionary defines irony as ?a method of expression in which the meaning intended is the opposite of that expressed? (613). This statement is true, although it is an extremely basic definition since irony has been used in numerous ways that will be discussed and illustrated later in this essay.
The definition indicated proposes that irony could be closely related to terms such as ?satire? or ?sarcasm?. Satire is defined as ?the use of biting, often bitter wit, especially in the form of irony or sarcasm? (Canadian Intermediate Dictionary 1012). Its relation to irony is obvious by its given meaning, but the word ?satire? has a slightly different connotation. It is used to express folly, or to ridicule and criticize something or someone. Jonathan Swift portrays satire well in his essay, ?A Modest Proposal?. He makes an ironic statement against the British Government and how they are managing the Irish people. He suggests that ?a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasse or a ragout? (Findlay 11). His statement is obviously ridiculous, but he means the opposite of what he is saying. His point is to communicate the harsh feelings he has towards the British because they have treated the starving Irish children poorly.
Irony has many varieties from the deeply philosophical to the viscerally personal. These varieties vary according to the moral or psychological impetus behind them, but also according to the literary forms they take, as in dramatic irony where we know more than a particular character does.
Also, Socratic irony as in Plato?s dialogues where Socrates is the apparently na?ve eiron and his interlocutor the apparently confident and knowledgeable alezon. Irony derives from the discrepancy between appearance and reality, and our efforts to ignore or know more about that discrepancy. Irony requires careful control by its user and adroit intelligence on the part of its consumer. The audience has to work at reading obliqueness, translating indirection in the surface text into a more directly challenging subtext.
Avis, Walter S. Canadian Intermediate Dictionary 613, 1012 (1979)
Findlay, Isobel M. ?A Modest Proposal.? Introduction to Literature (2001): 11