The 3 Types of Irony

Irony is a literary technique and rhetoric device that has been used for many years in speech, art and everyday life. Although irony has been used for a long time, there hasn’t been an exact definition of the word itself.

There are hundreds of definitions that have been suggested over the years, one of them being that irony is a figure of speech which is a contradiction or incongruity between what is expected and what actually occurs.

Most of the definitions of irony however seem to suggest that irony involve a contrast between appearance and actual reality. It is a discrepancy between what is anticipated to be true and what is actually true.teacher talking about the types of irony

There are Three Types of Irony

  • Verbal irony
  • Situation irony
  • Dramatic irony

Verbal Irony

Verbal irony is the use of words to mean something different from what a person actually says.

The main feature of verbal irony that sets it apart from the other different types of irony is that it is used by a speaker intentionally. It occurs in a conversation where a person aims to be understood as meaning something different to what his or her words literally mean.

Examples of verbal irony include:

“Thanks for the ticket officer you just made my day!”
“I can’t wait to read the seven hundred page report.”

The above examples show how irony is used to show someone’s frustration or disappointment.

There are two types of verbal irony:

Overstatement – when a person exaggerates the character of something.
Understatement – when a person undermines the character of something.

Verbal Irony and Sarcasm

Most of the time, sarcasm and verbal irony are used interchangeably. There is however a clear distinction between the two.

In most cases, sarcasm is used to insult or to cause harm.

A statement like “Great, someone stained my new dress.” is ironic, while “You call this a work of art?” is sarcastic.

While verbal irony implies a different meaning to what is actually said, sarcasm is mainly used as a sharp and direct utterance designed to cause pain.

[For More See: Verbal Irony]

Dramatic Irony

This type of irony is popular in works of art such as movies, books, poems and plays.

It occurs when the audience is aware of something that the characters in the story are not aware of.

An example of dramatic irony is in a movie where a detective does not know that the criminal responsible for the crimes in the city is his partner. The audience however is already aware of this fact and waits anxiously to know what will happen once the character finds out what they already know.

There are three stages of dramatic irony:

Installation – audience is informed of something the character does not know about
Exploitation – using this information to develop curiosity among the audience
Resolution – what happens when the character finally finds out what is going on?

A special category of dramatic irony is tragic irony.

Tragic irony occurs when a character in a play does or says something that communicates a meaning unknown to her but recognized by the audience.

An example of tragic irony is when a character orders poisoned food that is supposed to kill him or her and the audience already knows that the character is destined to die from food poisoning.

Tragic irony was common in plays that depicted the lives of legends in ancient Greece.

The audience already knew the fate of the characters before they watched the play.

[For More See: Dramatic Irony]

Situation Irony

It involves a discrepancy between what is expected to happen and what actually happens.

Situation irony occurs when the exact opposite of what is meant to happen, happens.

An example would be when someone buys a gun to protect himself, but the same gun is used by another individual to injure him. One would expect that the gun would keep him safe, but it has actually caused him injury.

There is however a difference between situation irony and coincidence or bad luck.

When someone washes his car and it rains, that is just bad luck; nothing led him or her to think that it would not rain. However, when a TV weather presenter gets caught in an unexpected storm, it is ironic because he or she is expected to know the exact weather changes.

For situation irony to occur there has to be something that leads a person to think that a particular event or situation is unlikely happen.

[For More See: Situational Irony]

Dramatic Irony

Dramatic irony is a stylistic device that is most commonly used by storytellers, in plays, in the theater, and in movies. The irony is used as a plot device to create situations where the reader knows much more about the episodes and the resolutions before the chief character or characters. For example, the reader may be already aware that a character is relying on deceitful characters, is making suicidal decisions, or is going to be killed, but the particular character and some other characters may not know these facts. The actions and words of characters will therefore mean different things [...]

Situational Irony

Situational irony occurs when the final outcome is contradictory to what was expected. Usually, the episodes in the plot of a story will lead the audience to expect a particular resolution or ending. If such an expected outcome fails and instead another contrary outcome occurs, the absurdity is termed situational irony. Such a form of irony is the result a discrepancy in perspective, such that what is known and expected at one moment differs with what is known later on. Some might only consider situational irony to be ironic rarely if at all. Rather, in most cases, it seems more [...]

Verbal Irony

Verbal irony occurs when speakers say the opposite of what they mean. For example, a man may say loudly to a manifestly unattractive woman, “You are more than beautiful!” This guy is obviously a dick. An ironic dick. Verbal ironies are mainly the intentional products of speakers. The speakers say what is intentionally contradictory to their actions and emotions. There are many ironic similes that convey the opposite of what speakers intend to express. Examples include: soft like concrete clear like mud pleasant like a root canal relaxed like a coiled rattlesnake The irony can be discovered by examining the [...]