Definition of Irony (Comparative essay)

Definition of Irony (Comparative essay)As the world is becoming more specific, the writing techniques are also becoming more specific. The writers have more variety of literary tools such as allusion, metaphor, symbolism, and irony. Irony is the most common and most efficient technique of the satirist. Since this technique is so popular and being used in many different ways, people do not really understand the true meaning of the word. A clear understanding of the word irony as it applies to literature can be attained by an analysis of its formal, historical, and informal definitions.
The word irony can be understood by its formal definition. First, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word irony has two different denotations. The first one is, “A figure of speech in which the intended meaning is the opposite of that expressed by the words used; usually taking the form of sarcasm or ridicule in which laudatory expressions are used to imply condemnation or contempt.” (OED) Furthermore, the OED states that the second denotation is, “An instance of this; an ironical utterance or expression.” Secondly, the word irony has two connotations according to the OED. The first connotation is “A condition of affairs or events of a character opposite to what was, or might naturally be, expected; a contradictory outcome of events as if in mockery of the promise and fitness of things.” (OED) Another connotation definition of the word irony in an etymological sense is, “Dissimulation, pretence; esp. in reference to the dissimulation of ignorance practiced by Socrates as a means of confuting an adversary.” (OED) In addition, the word irony is an adoption of the Latin word ironia after the Greek word eipwveia, which means dissimulation, ignorance purposely affected. (OED) Nevertheless, it is not the only way to analyze that.
The word irony can be also understood by its historical definition. To begin with, the word irony was first found written in the year 1502 in Ord. Crysten Men. The sentence that includes the word is, “To say of hym selfe ony thynge of his feeblenesses and necessytes, or of his synnes…to the end that a man be renowmed and reputed humble abiect and grete thynge in merytes and deuocyons before god.. such synne is named yronye, not that the whiche is of grammare, by the whiche a man sayth one and gyueth to understande the contrarye.” (OED) The second time it appears was in 1533 in More Debell. Salem v. Wks. As mentioned, “When he calleth one self noughty lad, both a shreud boy and a good some, the tone in ye proper simple spech, the tother by the tygure of ironye or antiphrasis.” (OED) In addition, In the 18th and the 19th centuries, irony underwent a transformation from a rhetorical and literary device to a broad-ranging, all-encompassing idea. In the words of critic Wayne Booth, “by the end of the Romantic period, it had become a grand Hegelian concept… or a synonym for romanticism; or even an essential attribute of god.” (Quinn 169) This attitude, sometimes called romantic or comic irony, developed from the belief that life is inherently a mix of opposites and that the most appropriate response to its double-edged nature it to assume the role of a detached, knowing spectator. Furthermore, in the 20th century, irony plays a central role in new criticism, where the term is used to denote an essential characteristic of poetry, the capacity of poetic language to reconcile opposites. In this sense, irony means something very close to paradox. In addition, in the myth criticism of Northrop Frye, irony stands as a genre along with comedy, tragedy, and romance, allowing to the seasonal myths that Frye sees as underlying all of literature. (Quinn 169) However, there is another way to analyze the definition.
The word irony can be also understood by its informal definition. First, irony is a literary term referring to how person, situation, statement or circumstance is not as it would actually seem. Many times, it is the exact opposite of what it appears to be. Furthermore, the term irony may appear to be applied to events, situations, and even structural elements of a word. Irony is commonly employed as a “wink” that the listener or reader is expected to notice so that he or she may be “in on the secret.” Also, speakers and authors may even use irony as a mode of expression rather than make discrete ironic statements. (Murfin 176-177) Examples of irony can be found in the short story “The Black Cat.” This use of irony is not seen until the end of the story. The main character begins by informing his readers that he is about to relate a “series of mere household events.” (DiYanni 131) He then wonders if, in the future, when his morbid tale is discussed by others considering his case, they will find it to be “nothing more than an ordinary succession of very natural causes and effects.” (DiYanni 131) In addition, the word irony has a few possible synonyms. The synonyms are caustic remark, sarcasm, and satire. The informal definition helps to understand the meaning of the word irony in simpler words.
By studying the formal, historical, and informal definitions of the word irony, the meaning of the word irony can be understandable. Furthermore, after analyzing the definition, there is a better understanding even beyond the simple meaning. After analyzing the use of irony, readers have a better understanding of not only how to read stories, but also the meaning that goes much deeper than the surface of the stories. Lastly, the use of irony gives stories an unpredictable edge that allowing the reader to become more involved with the characters and plot. This aspect of ingenious writing makes the literary classics what they are today.
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