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Irony

Page history last edited by William Patrick Wend 12 years, 7 months ago

The Wikipedia page on irony should be pretty helpful.


Forms of Irony

Verbal-Contrast between what a speaker says and what he intended to say (i.e. sarcasm); contrast between what a speaker says and what the listener expected him to say

  • Intentional
  • often very stereotypical
  • as hard as putty
  • as clear as mud
  • as pleasant as a root canal treatment
  • "as pleasant and relaxed as a coiled rattlesnake" (Kurt Vonnegut from Breakfast of Champions)

 

Situational-Contrast between what an individual does and what he intended to do; contrast between what an individual does and what a witness expected him to do. This is a relatively modern use of the term, and describes a discrepancy between the expected result and actual results when enlivened by 'perverse appropriateness'. Wikipedia offers these examples: 

 

  • When John Hinckley attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan, all of his shots initially missed the President; however a bullet ricocheted off the bullet-proof Presidential limousine and struck Reagan in the chest. Thus, a vehicle made to protect the President from gunfire was partially responsible for him being shot.
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a story whose plot revolves around irony. Dorothy travels to a wizard and fulfills her challenging demands to go home, before discovering she had the ability to go back home all the time. The Scarecrow longs for intelligence, only to discover he is already a genius, and the Tin Woodsman longs to be capable of love, only to discover he already has a heart. The Lion, who at first appears to be a whimpering coward, turns out to be bold and fearless. The people in Emerald City believed the Wizard to be a powerful deity, only to discover that he is a bumbling, eccentric old man.
  • Dramatic: contrast between what a character believes and what the audience or readers know to be true

 

Dramatic-The device of giving the spectator an item of information that at least one of the characters in the narrative is unaware of (at least consciously), thus placing the spectator a step ahead of at least one of the characters. Dramatic irony has three stages - installation, exploitation and resolution (often also called preparation, suspension and resolution) - producing dramatic conflict in what one character relies or appears to rely upon, the contrary of which is known by observers (especially the audience; sometimes to other characters within the drama) to be true.

 

  • In Othello, the audience knows that Desdemona has been faithful to Othello, but Othello doesn't. The audience also knows that Iago is pulling the strings, a fact hidden from Othello, Desdemona, Cassio and Roderigo.
  • In Cask of Amontillado, the reader knows something bad is going to happen to Fortunato, while Fortunato does not.

 

Cosmic-Contrast between what a character hopes or wishes for and what uncontrollable fate causes or allows to happen. The expression “irony of fate” stems from the notion that the gods (or the Fates) are amusing themselves by toying with the minds of mortals with deliberate ironic intent. Closely connected with situational irony, it arises from sharp contrasts between reality and human ideals, or between human intentions and actual results. The resulting situation is poignantly contrary to what was expected or intended. More recently in English, the mere "coincidental or unexpected" has been called ironic, and this usage appears to be gaining ground. It is still considered a minor usage. 

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