Study S1 English English - Irony - Geniebook

Irony

In this chapter, we will look at verbal, situational and dramatic irony.

 

3 Types Of Irony

  1. Situational irony: A situation that is odd/amusing because what actually happens is the opposite of what might be expected to happen.
  2. Verbal irony: The use of words to express something that is the opposite from its literal meaning.
  3. Dramatic irony: Arises whenever the audience knows more than one or more of the characters. Thus, they can foresee the possible consequences of an action, tragic or comic, or errors in the character’s judgments.

 

A) Situational Irony (not to be mistaken with coincidence)

  1. A fire station burns down.
  2. A marriage counsellor files for divorce.
  3. A police station gets robbed.
  4. A Facebook post complains about how useless Facebook is.
  5. A pilot has a fear of heights.
  6. An English teacher has poor grammar.
  7. A member of PETA wears leather shoes.
  8. A pedestrian who needs immediate medical assistance is run over by the ambulance sent to help him.

 

 

B) Verbal Irony

Verbal irony is often used to bring humour to situations. Do note that sarcasm is only one type of verbal irony.

  1. Sarcasm (saying “Oh, fantastic!” when the situation is actually very bad)
  2. Socratic irony (feigning ignorance to show that someone else is ignorant: “I’m confused, I thought your curfew was at 11, isn’t it 12 now?”)
  3. Understatement (saying “We don’t get along” after having a huge fight with someone)
  4. Exaggeration/overstatement (saying “I’ll die if I can’t go to the concert!”)

 

Verbal Irony: While involving the non-literal meaning of language, it does not necessarily involve mockery or criticism

Sarcasm: Involves the use of language to mean something other than its literal meaning, but always with the intention to mock or criticise someone or something.

  1. A food critic telling the chef, “Your steak was as tender as a leather boot.”
  2. You wake up in the morning and find a pimple. You say, “Oh no, my life is ruined!”

 

Uses of Verbal Irony

Why do writers use verbal irony?

  1. To make the reader laugh
  2. To lighten the mood
  3. To point out contradictions, hypocrisies, or absurdities of all kinds
  4. To imply a meaning beyond the literal meaning that only some people will notice or understand

 

How are such questions phrased?

Bram hated his roommate’s dog. Keith did not even ask Bram before he got the dog. His inconsiderate roommate just came home one night with a dog. Now Bram had to share his living space with a furry, poorly trained pest. The dog was not potty trained. It barked hours on end for seemingly no reason. It jumped all over Bram’s guests and bothered them. Bram tolerated all of this because he was a good roommate and Keith was his friend. Then Bram came home from work one day and found that Keith’s dog had chewed up Bram’s limited edition Nike Air Jordan sneakers. Bram snapped. “Keith, do you want to know what your awesome dog did? He tore up my favourite shoes. Thank you so much. I didn’t want those anyway.” Keith came out of his room looking confused and upset. Bram continued, “Oh, I never said thank you by the way for surprising me with this really well-behaved dog. I am so pleased to share my home with him!” Bram was shouting now. Keith grabbed his dog by the collar and slowly nudged him into his bedroom.

 

  1. Identify the type of irony used in the paragraph.
  • Verbal Irony
  1. Explain the irony.
  • Explain what is the literal meaning of words.
  • Explain the intended meaning.


Let’s understand the above topics with the help of some examples:

 

Question 1:

(The text below is about a father’s visit to his daughter’s home.)

 

Prema had offered to drive to the airport to receive her father, who was visiting from Delhi, India, but he insisted on renting a car and following directions off the Internet. When she heard the sound of tyres on the gravel drive, she started picking up and putting away the toys and plastic animals that were scattered across the living room floor by Prakash. “Turn off the television, Peanut,” she called out to him now. “Don’t sit so close to the screen. Dadu’s here.”

Prakash was lying motionless on the floor, on his stomach. He was a perfect synthesis of Prema and Sam. He was only three, but she already felt the resistance, the behaviour that would set in with adolescence. After the move, he had grown difficult due to the new surroundings, Sam not being around much due to work and her lack of energy. Growing up, her mother’s example - moving to a foreign place for the sake of marriage, caring for the children and a household - had served as a warning, a path to avoid. Yet this was Prema’s life now - in a culturally different America.

 

"Yet this was Prema’s life now…"

With reference to the phrase above and the paragraph, explain the irony.

 

  1. Prema wanted to follow her mother’s path of going to a different country but ended up staying in her home country.
  2. Prema followed her mother’s choices as she was a filial daughter.
  3. Prema got everything that she wanted for life and was over the moon.
  4. Prema did not want to follow her mother's path of going to a different country due to obligations tied to marriage and family, but she ended up doing the exact same thing. 

 

Solution: 

(D) -  Prema did not want to follow her mother's path of going to a different country due to obligations tied to marriage and family, but she ended up doing the exact same thing. 

Explanation:

As a literary device, the irony is a contrast or incongruity between expectations for a situation and what is reality. This is an example of Situational Irony.

In this case, it is a difference between what might be expected to happen (she learns a lesson from her mother's fate and successfully avoids the domestic life) and what actually occurs (she ends up doing the same thing her mother did, but in a different country).

 

 

Question 2:

(The text below describes a scenario where Joseph, who had been injured, awoke in the hospital.)

 

Joseph woke up confused and disoriented. Looking around the large room, he soon realised that he was lying in a hospital bed. He attempted to sit up, but a sharp pain made him cry out. He looked down. The sight of his bandaged hands made him gasp. Splotches of bright red blood had seeped through the fabric. He had no recollection of what could possibly have happened to him. He tried moving his fingers but white-hot pain shot through his arm.

After what seemed like eternity, a nurse came to his bed side. She was a stout-looking woman with a cheerful smile on her face. She asked Joseph how he felt, while signalling for him to not get up. Joseph ran the gamut of emotions in a matter of seconds - shock, confusion, and indignation that there had been no one in sight to offer an explanation.

“Can I do anything at all to help you?” The nurse asked.

With an exaggerated smile, he shook his head. “No, I’m sorry. I am in perfect health as you can see,” he said while holding up his bloody, bandaged hands. “I’m not sick at all.”

“That’s good. There are other patients to visit,” the nurse apologised. “I will come to see you again, probably tomorrow.”

 

Identify and explain the sarcasm present in the passage.

 

  1. Joseph was an expert and faking his injuries and wanted to dupe the nurse.
  2. Joseph was hospitalised although he had no major injuries.
  3. Joseph was in the hospital with severe injuries but when asked if he needed help/aid, he held up his obviously injured hands and declared that he was perfectly fine. 
  4. Joseph clearly didn’t need help but said that he required aid from the nurse.

 

Solution: 

(C) Joseph was in the hospital with severe injuries but when asked if he needed help/aid, he held up his obviously injured hands and declared that he was perfectly fine. 

* This is a case of Verbal Irony. *

Explanation:

Sarcasm is a literary device that uses irony to mock someone/something or convey contempt.

In this context, the writer uses sarcasm to express the opposite of what he/she believes is true.

 

 

Question 3:

Megan kept glancing at her watch every now and then. She twirled her hair around her fingers. Mr. Smith's Science lesson was taking an eternity to end.

 

Identify the hyperbole used in the given excerpt. Explain its effectiveness.

 

  1. The hyperbole used is "glancing at her watch". It emphasises how boring the class was.
  2. The hyperbole used is "taking an eternity to end". It is effective in conveying that Megan found Mr. Smith's Science lesson very boring/dull. 
  3. The hyperbole used is "twirled her hair". It conveys that she was bored.
  4. The hyperbole used is "every now and then". It conveys her restlessness during the lesson.

 

Solution:

(B) The hyperbole used is "taking an eternity to end". It is effective in conveying that Megan found Mr Smith's Science lesson very boring/dull. 

Explanation: 

A hyperbole is a figure of speech that uses exaggeration or overstatement to emphasise a certain effect.

In this context, it is used to emphasise the dull nature of the lesson.

It does NOT literally mean that the lesson lasted an eternity.

 

 

Question 4:

Is hyperbole a form of verbal irony?

 

Answer:

Yes, it is because it is an overstatement.

 

 

Question 5:

My father had not seen his grandmother for nearly a year. Finally, the day arrived when they were to be reunited.

“Grandma! It is such a pleasure to see you in the flesh again!” My father dashed to where the old lady was standing on the train platform and nearly broke the little old woman in half.

 

Identify the hyperbole used in the given excerpt. Explain its effectiveness.

 

  1. The hyperbole is "nearly a year". It is effective in showing how long they had not seen one another.
  2. The hyperbole used is "dashed to". It reflects his enthusiasm to meet his grandmother.
  3. The hyperbole used is "in the flesh again". It is effective in emphasising the writer’s father’s eagerness to see his grandmother.
  4. The hyperbole used is "nearly broke the little old woman in half". It is effective in conveying that the writer's father embraced his grandmother extremely tightly.

 

Solution: 

(D) The hyperbole used is "nearly broke the little old woman in half". It is effective in conveying that the writer's father embraced his grandmother extremely tightly. 

Explanation:

A hyperbole is a figure of speech that uses exaggeration or overstatement to emphasise a certain effect.

In this context, it is used to emphasise the tightness of the embrace.

It does NOT literally mean that the old woman was nearly broken in half.

 

 

Question 6:

Amanda was so excited about the party that she could not concentrate on anything else. The whole week leading up to it, she daydreamed instead of taking notes. The night before the dance, she noticed that she was developing a small reddish pimple on her nose. It was just a tiny little mark, but she imagined herself with a great big pimple, looking like Rudolf the Reindeer in all of the photographs, and became very concerned. She dashed out and bought a tube of every kind of pimple fighting cream available and then applied large globs of each of them to her nose. She went to bed satisfied that she had done all that she could to fight the blemish. When she woke up, she ran to the mirror, hoping that the pimple had vanished. As she gazed upon herself in the mirror, she screamed, not because the pimple had vanished, but because a bright red rash covered her entire nose.

 

Identify the type of irony used in the paragraph.

 

  1. Socratic irony
  2. Verbal irony
  3. Situational irony
  4. Dramatic irony

 

Solution:

(C) Situational irony

Explanation:

For situational irony, the opposite of what is expected occurs. Basically, the expected outcome or result and the actual outcome are vastly different.

Although we would expect the pimple cream to cure the blemish, the mixture of pimple creams caused a rash which was even more unsightly than the pimple.

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