What Is Irony?

Irony occurs when there is a gap between what you expect to happen and what actually happens. Here are a few irony examples:

Situational Irony Examples

Here are a few examples of irony:

  • The day you forget your umbrella at the house it rains cats and dogs.
  • You laugh at a guy who gets splashed by a passing car. Immediately after, a gutter tilts, and you get soaked from head to foot.

These examples are situational irony. Situational irony is the most commonly thought of irony form.

Verbal Irony Examples

Verbal irony is a form of irony in which you say something you don’t mean. Telling a person, “It’s good to know that you hate sour cream” after seeing their dinner with gobs of sour cream is an example of verbal irony. Verbal irony can make for comedic scenes.

Dramatic Irony & Romantic Irony

In literature, there are two more irony forms:

  • Dramatic irony is irony that occurs when a character is unaware of circumstances that the reader and the other characters know. A particular form of dramatic irony is tragic irony. For example, the fate of characters like Oedipus, whose actions and speeches took the form of tragic irony. Dramatic irony can make for a tragic story.
  • Romantic irony is irony that occurs when the author becomes self-conscious about the act of creation.  This type of irony is similar to “metafiction,” when characters become aware they’re characters and hold conversations with the audience. Romantic irony can make for a humorous story.

How Do You Identify Irony in Writing?

To summarize, irony occurs when there is a gap between what is said and what is meant. Irony also occurs when there is a gap between what is known by the audience and what is known by the character. Alternatively, irony occurs when there is a gap between the story existing in a closed world and the writer mingling fiction with reality. Take a look at some more of these examples to help further understand how to identify irony in writing.

Irony Examples

Irony Examples 1. As an example of dramatic irony, in “Story of an Hour,” Mrs. Mallard dies of a heart attack when her husband, presumed dead, suddenly arrives at home. The characters believe she died of “the joy that kills.” The reader, however, knows that she dies because her new-found freedom has been stripped from her.

Irony Examples 2. For an example of situational irony, In Guy de Maupassant’s story, “The Necklace,” the main character works for ten years to repay her employer for a lost necklace, only to find out that the original was an imitation.

Irony Examples 3. The Simpson’s Halloween show in which Homer lands in a dumpster in “our” reality is a good example of the show dabbling in romantic irony.

Irony Examples 4. In Flannery O’Connor’s “All Things that Rise Must Also Converge,” there are several examples of irony, the main one being that Julian’s spiteful wish to teach his mother a lesson ends up causing her to have a stroke, and her death ruins his life. This would be another case of situational irony.

Irony Examples 5. In Frozen, there is a case of dramatic irony, in which the audience realizes that Elsa is locked up because she has uncontrollable powers. Her sister Anna, on the other hand, thinks Elsa just doesn’t want to be friends with her anymore rather than realizing that she can’t touch her for fear of hurting her again.