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					Notes on Irony
                                            It is ironic… isn’t it?

        In Ben Stiller's 1994 movie, "Reality Bites", a recent college graduate named Ms. Ryder is turned
away from job after job. Ultimately, she begs a newspaper to hire her. "Define irony," an editor
commands. "Well, I can't really . . . but I know it when I see it," Ryder offers before the elevator doors
slam shut.
        In fact, irony is a tricky and controversial word. We will learn the definitions, but trying to
identify it is not always clear cut. Here are the facts, to get us started:

Irony:
    Most common meaning: a contrast between what is stated and what is meant, or
       between what is expected to happen and what actually happens. There are several
       different types of irony.
    THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING IRONY: Look for TWO layers of meaning!



Verbal Irony: when a verb or phrase is used to suggest the opposite of its usual meaning.
        Example – Someone does something stupid. You say, “Wow! Aren’t we smart!” The surface meaning
of smart is that a person is intelligent. The underlying meaning that you intend by saying this is that that the
person you are talking to is actually stupid.
        Layer 1: literal meaning of smart: intelligent
        Layer 2: underlying meaning of smart: unintelligent



Situational Irony: when an event occurs that contradicts what the characters, audience, or
readers expect.
       Example – If Bill Gates won a raffle to get a new computer. The irony is that Bill Gates makes
computers and he does not need to win one. On the one hand, it was a raffle, so he had as much of winning as
anyone; but on the other hand, it seems unfair or peculiar that he won since the last thing in the world Bill
Gates needs is a computer.
       Layer 1: what we expect: Gates doesn’t need a computer so he won’t win
       Layer 2: what happens: Gates wins. (After all, it’s just probability.)



Dramatic Irony: when there is a contradiction between what a character thinks and what the
reader or audience knows.
        Example – The story of Oedipus: Oedipus received a fortune that said he would kill his father, so he
leaves home. He does not realize that the family he is living with is not his real family, they adopted him but
the reader of the story does know this. He ends up killing his father when he leaves home.
        Layer 1: clueless audience: Oedipus, who does not know he is adopted
        Layer 2: in-the-know audience: the reader, who knows he’s adopted
Notes on Irony
                                            The Controversy about Ironic

IRONIC by Alanis Morissette
                                                           Well life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
An old man turned ninety-eight                             When you think everything's okay and everything's going
He won the lottery and died the next day                   right
It's a black fly in your Chardonnay                        And life has a funny way of helping you out when
It's a death row pardon two minutes too late               You think everything's gone wrong and everything blows
Isn't it ironic... don't you think                         up
                                                           In your face
Chorus:
It's like rain on your wedding day                         A traffic jam when you're already late
It's a free ride when you've already paid                  A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break
It's the good advice that you just didn't take             It's like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife
Who would've thought... it figures                         It's meeting the man of my dreams
                                                           And then meeting his beautiful wife
Mr. Play It Safe was afraid to fly                         And isn't it ironic... don't you think
He packed his suitcase and kissed his kids good-bye        A little too ironic... and yeah I really do think...
He waited his whole damn life to take that flight
And as the plane crashed down he thought                   Repeat Chorus
"Well isn't this nice..."
And isn't it ironic... don't you think                     Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
                                                           Life has a funny, funny way of helping you out
Repeat Chorus                                              Helping you out



Ironic was a song, written by female singer Alanis Morissette, that was released in 1996. It soared to the top of
pop music charts, listened to by millions on the radio. But controversy broke out over the lyrics of the song.
Did it REALLY contain examples of irony or did Morissette need to go back to high school English class?

Using the lyrics provided, your job is to decide: Is Ironic actually ironic? If so, what type of irony is it?
First, identify the examples of things in the song that might be examples of irony.
Next, try to determine what sort of irony they are. Think about what the two layers involved are with each
example.

Below are a few quotes from interviews with Morissette as well as reviews of her song that may help
you to see why irony is such a tricky word:

Q: How did you come up with the lyrics to the Ironic song? Is there a story behind it?
Alanis M: Glen (Ballard) and I were having our usual analytical conversation and we ran into a brick wall
when it came to trying to find an answer to all the inexplicable and random things that happen in this crazy
world...

"The whole aspect of things happening for a reason sometimes eludes me." - Alanis Morissette, TV concert special
& interviews, aired 1996

"If I had realized how upset people would be I suppose I might have given it a little more thought."-Alanis
Morissette

“Isn't it ironic? Sorry, Alanis, but no, it isn't. The gazillion-selling singer is back on top of the charts with a
song and video about a series of events that qualify as annoying or unfortunate, but wouldn't pass for ironic
in most freshman English courses.” –The Washington Post