What is Irony?
It’s the contrast between two seemingly incompatible facts. Like a religious leader caught embezzling. Or an umpire cheating. Or a marriage counselor divorcing.
Used irony to:
- Create a humorous or dramatic effect
- Emphasize a central idea
- Help readers spot incongruities and uncover underlying meanings
- Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink. — Paraphrase from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
- “It’s just a flesh wound.” — From Monty Python and the Holy Grail where a knight loses his arms and legs
Types of Irony
- Ninth century Chinese alchemists created gunpowder while trying to make an immortality elixir.
- The Kudzu vine introduced to the U.S to prevent soil erosion now chokes trees and other plants.
The literal meaning of a sentence is the opposite of what was intended:
- Saying “Oh, wonderful!” when you horrible news.
- In Beauty and the Beast, Belle tells the obnoxious Gaston, “I don’t deserve you.”
- Saying, “Nice day, eh?” during a downpour.
When your reader knows more than your character. For example, the Geico commercial in which unsuspecting teens hide from a criminal behind an array of chainsaws.
Irony vs. Sarcasm
Irony exposes obvious discrepancies. Sarcasm usually insults or causes harm.
Irony: The victim of a car accident says, “Today is my lucky day!”
Sarcasm: An art gallery patron says, “This is your idea of a masterpiece?”