Is He Serious?

And Other Ironies

Presentation By: Rachel Nash

English II Honors

Block 4

11/26/13

Chapter 26

What is Irony?

  • When symbols are used, the sign itself is stable, but the reader's interpretation is subjective. When an author uses irony, he or she takes advantage of these expectations by turning them around and choosing a different meaning than normally used.
  • Irony is a literary effect that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects.
  • When an author uses irony, he defies a common literary example such as the ones we have discussed so far and does the complete opposite


"Ironic Mode"- How to Identify Irony

a. In normal literature, characters are either at the reader's level or superior to the reader when it comes to determination, skill, independence, bravery, or other admirable traits. In ironic literature, the main character is less skilled than the average.


b. Common literary techniques are drastically flipped when irony is used. For instance:

  • If rain, which normally symbolizes rebirth and new beginnings, happens after death, then IT'S IRONY.
  • If the hero is offered a quest, which by normal rules must be accepted for a heroic journey, and he refuses to take part, then IT'S IRONY.
  • If an insane murderer, who is generally assumed to be an evil antagonist, is the hero of a story, then IT'S IRONY.



Irony Trumps Everything!

Throw everything else out the window!

  • When irony comes into a story, all symbols and themes must be searched for a deeper meaning. Irony takes precedence over all other literary rules because its innate purpose is to defy rules.
  • "That's irony- take our expectations and upend them, make them work against us. You can pretty much do this with anything. Spring comes and the wasteland doesn't even notice. Your heroine is murdered at dinner with the villain, during a toast in her honor. The Christ figure causes the destruction of others while he survives nicely. Your character crashes his car into a billboard but is unhurt because his seat belt functions as designed. Then, before he can get it off, the billboard teeters, topples, and crushes him" (238).
  • Because of this higher level thinking and questioning of assumptions, irony makes the reader work to figure out the symbolic meaning of the text.


Three Types of Irony:

1. Verbal

  • The irony is contained in characters' dialogue and often comments the opposite of what is really meant.

2. Situational

  • The irony occurs in a situation that produces the opposite effect of what is expected by the reader according to past knowledge.

3. Dramatic

  • The irony occurs when a character is oblivious to a situation and does the exact wrong thing without knowing. Frequently, the reader is made aware of the existence of the situation first.

Why Irony?

Authors use irony for a variety of reasons, including:


  • Adding humor and richness to enhance the reader's experience. By looking deeper into the story to analyze irony, readers gain a higher understanding.
  • Showing details of the plot and characterization. Irony can show the perversity of a situation, wrongness of an action, or the confusion of a hero.