What is Irony?

Irony consists of saying one thing while we mean another. It is not easy to define irony exactly, but we can say that it is the expression of one's meaning by language of opposite or different tendency, especially the adoption of another's views or tone. It is studied in different patterns. It emphasizes the tricky dimension of language.

Irony is a language device, either verbal irony or dramatic irony. In a dramatic irony or in a theatrical situation there is an incongruity between what is expected and what occurs. But in verbal irony which conceals in written or spoken form the real meaning or contradict by the literal meanings of the words.  Verbal irony is a statement in which the implicit meaning intended by the speaker differs from that which he asserts. Sometimes the use of irony by Pope and other masters is very complex. So it occurs when a statement is made that is obviously contradicted by the tone of voice.

If a metaphor is a matter of comparison, parallels, harmony, and creative and rich use of language, irony is a matter of contrast, disharmony and the critical and satiric use of language. Irony exists to expose some kind of lack, absurdity or incongruity of human nature, ideas, or language itself. If metaphor draws comparison between apparently different things, irony exposes gaps and differences between apparently similar things.

Irony is not so straight forward. In fact, we normally think of it as involving some indirection or misleading of the reader – some gap between what the words seem to be saying and what they are saying. In order to interpret irony successfully, the reader must be able to pick up clues of some incongruity from the tone, word-choice, metaphor or speech and situation. Sometimes, even metaphors have an ironic dimension. A tactful reader should be able to go beyond paraphrase to the poet's intention by properly analyzing the word-game to understand the ironic meanings.

Published on 23 Jan. 2014 by Kedar Nath Sharma

Related Topics

Alexander Pope: Biography

Jonathan Swift: Biography

William Shakespeare: Biography

Sophocles: Biography

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: Analysis