Sunday, March 18, 2012

Essay on Irony

Essay on Irony

Irony as the Brush Tool of Our Lives
When John Hinckley was trying to assassinate Ronald Reagan, he didn’t succeeded in getting into the target, but the bullet ricocheted off the protected window of the Presidential limousine and stuck the chest of the President. It is one of the brightest examples of situational irony, as protected window was primarily assigned to protect President’s life, but appeared to be the reason of his being shot.

So, irony is referred to as the literary mean, in which there can be followed the discordance between what speaker says and what s/he actually means (Knox 45). There can be distinguished modern and more classical types of irony. Modern irony can be enclosed in life examples of discrepancy of what is said and what happens in reality. There is also the term “Socratic” irony, which was offered by Aristotle, but differs greatly of what we call irony today (Colebrook 67).
The example of Socratic irony can be parents who answer to their child’s question regarding presets under Christmas tree that they have no idea about who put them their. Another example- is educational system, when the professor who is supposed to know the material and information upon definite subject is asking his students about it, instead of telling them what he knows. Socratic irony is bordering with lie, as, for example, when the person doesn’t what to speak about definite topic, which in reality is not that serious, answers that s/he has no idea about what s/he is being asked.

There can be argues about what should be called irony and what should not, but in general it should not be necessarily funny, but should draw distinction between understanding the reality and what actually happens or between what is said and what is meant or commonly acknowledged.

There are three basic types of ironies: verbal, dramatic and situational. There are also some subtypes, or similar types. Verbal irony refers to incongruity of expression and intention. Dramatic (tragic) irony is the congruity of expression and awareness. And finally situational irony refers to the congruity of intention and result, when the achieved result of the action appears to be opposite of the expected one. Similar to situational irony are cosmic and historical ironies, but about them a little bit later.

Verbal irony is the only type of irony that is produced intentionally by the speaker. For example, when the person is intended to communicate that s/he is angry with something, but says that s/he is happy. People use verbal ironies on the everyday basis, as when someone is get wet under the rain, s/he returns home and hears from his relatives: “Oh, you look great!” Depending in the situation and the people’s perceptions, it can be equally funny and abusive.

Ironic similes are said to be the form of the verbal irony, as they rely on the use of common knowledge and are intended to express something that in reality do not correspond to the intended definition. As an example, can be called such comparisons: as fast as turtle, as hairy as lemon, as cool as the forest fire, as salt as sugar, etc. The source to define the disparity of concepts should be easily understandable and stereotypical knowledge is commonly used.

Verbal irony can be easily confused with sarcasm. But there are special characteristics that distinguish sarcasm from verbal irony, such as ridicule is said to be an essential part of sarcasm, and sarcasm also includes the definite part of personal criticism against the person involved. In general, there are several types of verbal irony: sarcasm, hyperbole, double entendre, jocularity, understatement and rhetorical questions (Hutcheon 51).

Tragic or dramatic irony can be only found in fictional context. According to this form of irony, the actions and words of the characters differ from what happens in reality. Ancient Greek drama is an outstanding classic example of dramatic irony with “Oepidus the King” of Sophocles. Tragic irony is in some extent the people’s perception of the reality and their acting in accordance with their perceptions. The sad example of tragic irony of Renaissance period can be called the Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, when Romeo finds his beloved death-like asleep, and because of lack of knowledge about what actually happened, Romeo kills himself. When Juliet awakes and sees Romeo dead, she kills herself “again” with the knife. The example of dramatic irony is O. Henry’s story “The Gift of the Magi”, it is not tragic, but the irony is so touchy that one can even cry. It tells about the young couple who are too poor to buy Christmas gifts to each other. But each of them has one precious thing that means a lot to them. She has beautiful, long hair and he has heirloom pocket watch. So, she cuts of her hair to buy the watch-chain for her husband, and he sells his watch to buy the set of combs for his wife’s amazing hair. As a result, they both lost things that they valued and loved in their lives and received nothing. It is equally sad, funny, touchy and preachy.

And the final type of irony is situational irony that is disparity between the expected result and obtained result. Cosmic irony and historical irony are very similar to situational irony. Irony of fate or cosmic irony refers to the situations when the contrast between the reality and human ideas can be observed. For example, Jim Fixx was popularizing jogging in the 70s of the 20th century and died at the age of 52 from heart attack. The irony is that such death is generally associated with unhealthy lifestyle.

Historical irony provides the view upon historical events through the modern frame of reference. When during some historical period people do not know what will happen in the future and make false assumptions when addressing to particular events. For instance, the World War I was called “The War to End All Wars”. Or when the computers just emerged and were used in the government or academic settings, Chairman of IM, Thomas Watson said the following: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers”. And today it is difficult to image one’s life, pleasure time or work without a computer.

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