Enticing Irony For thousands of years, writers have been using irony to enrich an audience’s enjoyment and understanding of literature. The use of this literary device has become so common because its consequences have proven to be positive, often making the literary piece more interesting to read. Irony can be defined as a contrast between one’s actions and statements from what one really means. Simply put, it is a means of revealing something indirectly or obliquely. Specifically in plays, in order to make the audience think about the script of the character, irony is used to broaden he implication of the dialogue.
Through its use, more than one meaning can be considered than that of the surface meaning. In fact, it’s a clever way to layer the meanings of one situation or statement. In the plays “Oedipus Rex” written by Sophocles and “Master Harold’ and the boys” written by Athol Fugard, different forms of irony are used to reveal a reality different from what appears to be true. Irony allows meanings to be recognized unassumingly. It leaves to the reader or the audience the power to think about what is meant, consequently increasing the level f engagement with the text.
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That is the reason why writers tend to use irony so cunningly. In plays, writers recognize the importance of the audience’s role since it is essentially up to the audience as to what they think the character really wants to sayl . Because of the ambiguity of ironic situations, it can sometimes cause internal confusion and misunderstanding on the part of the audience. But more often than not, the audience is able to understand what is really meant by a statement or action, creating a feeling of self-satisfaction for comprehending what the writer actually eant to imply2.
Although there are many different types of irony, dramatic irony and cosmic irony are the two most prevalent types in “Oedipus Rex” . Dramatic irony occurs when the character is unconscious of the truth and cosmic irony occurs when the character is powerless to alter the outcome or future because the gods control everything and foil all human hopes and expectations3. There are many examples of both in “Oedipus Rex”, one being when Oedipus goes to Thebes, leaving Corinth behind in order to protect his parents, but in fact, goes straight toward his tragic redetermined destiny because he is actually now even closer to his real parents4.
He eventually marries his mother and has four children with her, which is an example of situational irony. Situational irony occurs when there is a marked inconsistency between what is expected to happen and what actually happens due to forces beyond human comprehension. Clearly Oedipus is unaware of his true parentage and his speeches also reveal that he is unaware about the truth about himself. He promises to get rid of and curse whoever killed King Laius, wishing upon hat person a miserable and painful life, however, he was the one who unknowingly did it5.
All of Oedipus’s seemingly productive and self-beneficial events brought about his downfall and predestined ruin that he was trying to avoid in the first place. Use of dramatic irony is also present “Master Harold’ and the boys”. One example is found on page 20 when Hally says to Sam, ” Good. Because what youVe been trying to do is meddle in something you know nothing about. All that concerns you in here, Sam, Is to try ana ao wnat you get pala Tor????”Keep tne place clean ana serve tne customers. In plain words, Just get on with your Job. My mother is right. She’s always warning me about allowing you to get too familiar.
Well, this time youVe gone too far. It’s going to stop right noW’6. Hally is convinced he is superior based on his white skin. The play gains much of its dramatic irony through Hallys unwittingly obnoxious comments like the quotation above that are due to his bigoted sense of superiority. The reasoning for this being an example of dramatic irony is because Hally fails to take into account the love and support that he received from both Sam and Willie over the years. He seems to fail to realize that it was not part of Sam’s Job description to act like a friend to Hally, providing him comfort and consolation in his times of need.
Clearly Hally is unaware of the Sam’s love for him since he was a little boy, which he makes even more apparent when he disrespects Sam in one of the most shameful of ways – spitting on him. Before Hally spits on Sam, he says on page 21 that his father is, ” a white man and that is good enough” for . This statement made by Hally is actually an example of sarcastic irony, which is a heavy handed, crude form of verbal irony intended to hurt. Hally calls upon the contrast in skin color scornfully to cause pain. Sometimes when sarcastic irony is used, there is nothing that can be said to reverse the damage.
However, before Hally crosses that line, there are many examples of verbal irony in the conversation between Hally and Sam7. Verbal irony is a fgure of speech spoken by a character who may tend to be ironic and use the literary device intentionally. Verbal irony can be gently intention, as seen on page 9 when Hally quotes Winston Churchill’s ways when he says, “Not many intellectuals are prepared to shovel manura with the peasants and then go ome and write a ‘little book called War and Peace. Incidentally, Sam, he was somebody else who, to quote, ‘… id not distinguish himself scholastically” Sam teases Hally about the way he brings up Winston Churchill’s grades whenever he fails a math test. The contrast between the excuse and the reality that Hally Just didn’t work hard enough is ironic8. Sam lets Hally know that he sees through his excuses and knows he can work harder. Although this use of verbal irony is subtle, it is effective. Many different types of irony are used in “Oedipus Rex” and “Master Harold’ and the oys” to enrich the audience’s enjoyment and understanding of the play by revealing a reality different from what appears to be true.
The different types of irony include dramatic irony, cosmic irony, situational irony, verbal irony, and sarcastic irony. From the examples of each type that were scrutinized, it is apparent that irony can be as harmless as the teasing between Sam and Hally for Hallys failing of math tests, or a serious as when Hally calls upon the contrast in skin color between him and Sam when supporting his reasoning for his superiority. The two examples of different ypes of irony between Sam and Hally show that irony has the ability to make or break relationships.
When Hally uses sarcastic irony to insult Sam, he is ultimately using sarcastic irony to break their relationship because he is crossing a line that he can never uncross. Sam finds it in his heart to forgive for Hally is Just a confused young adult, but if Hally continues to think in that manner as he gets older, Sam will have no more reason’s to excuse Hallys opinions. As for Oedipus, cosmic irony played its part since the gods did not allow him to escape his fate.
Although various types of irony were used differently in the two plays, all usages worked together to have the posltlve consequence 0T making tne literature more Interesting to Works Cited 1. “Irony. ” Irony. Steve Campsall, 2013. Web. 13 Oct. 2013. . tne readers. 2. “Dramatic Irony in Sophocles’ “Oedipus the King”” Dramatic Irony in Sophocles’ “Oedipus the King” Lyman A. Baker, 27 Feb. 2003. Web. 13 Oct. 2013.. 3. “Oedipus. ” Ancient Greece. N. p. , n. d. Web. 12 Oct. 2013. 4. Forsyth, S. “Identifying and Understanding the Oedipus Rex Ironies. ” Bright Hub Education. N. p. 0 sept. 2012. web. 13 oct. 2013.. 5. Stanford, Judith Dupras. Responding to Literature: Stories, Poems, Plays, and Essays. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2006. print. 6. “Master Harold Script Full 1 Doc Free Ebook Download from Vonsteuben. org. ” EbookBrowsee. net. N. p. , n. d. Web. Oct. 2013.. 7. “2ndsetlBEnglish – Master Harold and the Boys – Irony and Contrast. ” 2ndsetlBEnglish – Master Harold and the Boys – Irony and Contrast. N. p. , n. d. Web. 12 Oct. 2013.. 8. Bowcutt, Victoria. “English IOP- Master Harold and the Boys. ” Prezi. com. N. p. , 29 Apr. 2011. Web. 13 Oct. 2013..