The Language of Irony Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 27 September 2016

The Language of Irony

Irony is the tool that has made “Patriotism the last resort of the scoundrel”. Furthermore, it has become a necessity in the modern world.  But often, its use and misuse has given rise to much contention and strife due to misunderstanding, or the ‘proper’ understanding of the words.  The books on irony often state that it is not only the words used that matters, but also the ‘worlds’ of the user and the audience, that causes the irony. Irony can be seen to have happened in a point of time and not as always present.

Case study

First, let’s meet the person in school. Here he would come into contact with phrases, “such a good boy” coming from teachers at friends who were not owners of exceptional character.  Such phrases in connection would also be uttered by friends about classes that leave them yawning.  “What an exceptional class” would be an apt description of such a class.  These areas deal with especially relational irony. The same field that deals with Mark Antony’s “Brutus is an honorable man” would come into play with the given antiphrastic responses.

Such responses would bring in the edge of judging a bad class or person in a totally opposite way, thus creating an atmosphere of stark negation.  This would culminate in the coming together of two opposite meanings standing side by side and achieving the effect by contrast.  It would be in classroom of literature, that most interactions and exposure to irony would take place.  While taking literature in class he would of course come across poems like

 “But now we got weapons
Of the chemical dust
If fire them we’re forced to
Then fire them we must
One push of the button
And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions
When God’s on your side.”

(Bob Dylan, “With God on Our Side”) would expose him/her to a lot of irony.  Works like Romeo and Juliet or Huckleberry Finn, resonates with different types of Irony.  “My grave is like to be my wedding bed” says Juliet.

The juxtaposition becomes all the more true in the final part of the play and she dies because she married Romeo. Much more famous is the story “The Gift of the Magi” which brings out the helplessness of a couple, who sells their possessions to bring a gift for the other, only understanding late that the other has also done the same thing and the gift is useless.  Such writings in literature would force anyone to think and understand the way things ought to be and the way things really are.

Often it brings out the truth by stark comparison, and thereby educates the listener to the presence of higher truths in life.  It also brings out the fact that man is of a higher intellect and beyond simple comprehension, for he becomes capable of understanding something that is totally different from what is being communicated.  It actually not happens to be but is put in place.

Another place of irony would be that of his community in the library. The person who works in a library, also needs intellectual nourishment.  The Library Association has passed a resolution advocating discussion among library workers including the library administrators.  They are advocating speech among the workers while prohibiting speech among the users of the library.

The associations had adopted it to act within the framework of applicable laws.  In a community which values its intellectual freedom so much, the librarians would be under the danger of being stagnated without freedom of speech in the work hours.  This would give rise to situational irony as the population that comes to library turns up for intellectual nourishment, at least most of them do.  And they prefer silence to speeches. Thus the place of intellectual nourishment, which promotes silence, becomes stagnation for the workers in that area.  Another source of irony would be different authors like Maupassant, Swift etc.

The necklace by Maupassant is a book celebrated for its irony. The necklace itself is not original and a cheap imitation and the name Madame Loisel is almost like Mademoiselle which in French means young unmarried girls which she wishes to be. Such books could alter the lifestyle of a young person. Such situations in a library itself would lead the candidate to more knowledge and character formation (The end(s) of irony: the politics of appropriateness).

As a Devout Catholic attending the Church, he would meet the trope in different forms.  The bible itself abounds in the different forms of irony.  The most evident one would be the words written on the cross which mocks Jesus as the King of Jews whereas Jesus was the actual king long awaited by the Jewish People.  The sense of irony is also carried further in the reading of the Caiphas’ (as in many reading in the bible) comment that “it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish” (John 11: 45-50). Beyond the readings in the bible he would also find that the flock of sheep often turn out to be worse than the tigers around.

Such experiences would certainly make him aware of deeper meanings of intentional irony as well as unintended irony.  When he hears the word “good Friday”, he doubts often why the day of the great sacrifice of our Lord is celebrated as “good”, which could propel his curiosity towards religion and enhance his understanding of the religious faith that is professed.

The rituals at Holy Eucharist, which are supposed to be before a Lord of Hosts, which is now mostly abandoned by the flock would often bring to the mind of the devout, a sense of irony that would be beyond words.  The sight of Shepherds often abandoning the flock, and often sheep that attack the shepherds would all be very ironic and true to the core examples, to the devout Catholic.  Another greatest irony would be a closed Church, a Church that claims to be open to “all Peoples”, where often most people can’t find a home.  And the prayer of our Lord that “they may all be one; as thou, Father , art in me, and I in thee…” John (17:21) creates a desperate sense of irony in him to find a thousand schisms and segregations in the name of faith.

In his day to day life, irony also plays an important role.  The word ironical is often a word meted out in our daily life.  It is not something that could be contained within two bound covers. “How ironical is that?” are words part of our daily conversations which means that it is not confined to the area of literature alone.  The main type of irony would come while they start comparing each other with other’s spouses, often for fun using understatements.

“Those fine days”, referring to the time before marriage, is an oft used quote favorite of spouses, hint at the ‘sad plight’ that they are in now.  This seemingly innocent phrase would juxtapose the rabbit and the duck, in a single majestic sweep of the tongue. One could see either the duck or the rabbit, or both if so inclined. Often different techniques of comparing and contrasting would be used by both spouses to indicate the dissatisfaction that they feel for certain things that they feel could have been done better. “Mr./ Mrs. X bought a bag, it was so beautiful, everyone was talking about it at the café..!”.  This would be anticipatory when the spouse is supposed to be buying a present the very next day.  Thus each day would educate and illuminate the candidate to different forms of irony.


The different forms of irony would play much towards giving the listener a glimpse of the truth, without being crude and at the same time by being humorous. It is presence universally felt and something that has shaped the destiny of every listening community.  It also forms part of a society which enjoys and revels in the ingenuity and glory of its language. With irony, the values and morality of any community comes up for ridicule and self-correction (Modeling meaning: the semantics of irony).


Modeling meaning: the semantics of irony: (n.d).

The end(s) of irony: the politics of appropriateness. (n.d)

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