Irony (from the Ancient Greek εἰρωνεία eirōneía, meaning dissimulation or feigned ignorance) is a rhetorical device, literary technique, or situation in which there is incongruity between the literal or expected meanings and the implied or actual meanings of things.
- 'Twas thine own genius gave the final blow,
And help'd to plant the wound that laid thee low:
So the struck eagle, stretch'd upon the plain,
No more through rolling clouds to soar again,
View'd his own feather on the fatal dart,
And wing'd the shaft that quiver'd in his heart.
- George Gordon, Lord Byron, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers: A Satire (1809)
- Time changes all things and cultivates even in herself an appreciation of irony.
- Ironic philosophies produce passionate works.
- Irony deals with opposites; it has nothing to do with coincidence.
If two baseball players from the same hometown, on different teams, receive the same uniform number, it is not ironic. It is a coincidence. If Barry Bonds attains lifetime statistics identical to his father's, it will not be ironic. It will be a coincidence.
Irony is "a state of affairs that is the reverse of what was to be expected; a result opposite to and in mockery of the appropriate result." For instance: a diabetic, on his way to buy insulin, is killed by a runaway truck. He is the victim of an accident. If the truck was delivering sugar, he is the victim of an oddly poetic coincidence. But if the truck was delivering insulin, ah! Then he is the victim of an irony.
If a Kurd, after surviving bloody battle with Saddam Hussein's army and a long, difficult escape through the mountains, is crushed and killed by a parachute drop of humanitarian aid, that, my friend, is irony writ large.
Darryl Stingley, the pro football player, was paralyzed after a brutal hit by Jack Tatum. Now Darryl Stingley's son plays football, and if the son should become paralyzed while playing, it will not be ironic. It will be coincidental. If Darryl Stingley's son paralyzes someone else, that will be closer to ironic. If he paralyzes Jack Tatum's son, that will be precisely ironic.
- Neither irony nor sarcasm is argument.
- Rufus Choate, as quoted in A Treasury of Great American Quotations : Our Country's Life & History in the Thoughts of its Men and Women (1964) by Charles Hurd
- When irony first makes itself known in a young man's life, it can be like his first experience of getting drunk; he has met with a powerful thing which he does not know how to handle.
- The ironist is not bitter, he does not seek to undercut everything that seems worthy or serious, he scorns the cheap scoring-off of the wisecracker. He stands, so to speak, somewhat at one side, observes and speaks with a moderation which is occasionally embellished with a flash of controlled exaggeration. He speaks from a certain depth, and thus he is not of the same nature as the wit, who so often speaks from the tongue and no deeper. The wit's desire is to be funny; the ironist is only funny as a secondary achievement.
- The antidote to hubris, to overweening pride, is irony, that capacity to discover and systematize clear ideas.
- Ralph Ellison, "Address to the Harvard College Alumni, Class of 1949" (1974), in The Collected Essays, ed. John F. Callahan (New York: Modern Library, 1995), p. 429
- Irony is the gaiety of reflection and the joy of wisdom.
- Anatole France, as quoted in Satanic Satire in the Modern Novel (1925) by Sidney Stephen Greenleaf, p. 25
- One of the earliest and best statements of this counter-trend [challenging the concept of irony] can be found in Hegel's Aesthetik (written in the 1820s, published in 1835). With pointed and polemical language Hegel argued that because irony sees the world as fundamentally ambiguous, it tends to condone an attitude of "irresolution" and "loss of seriousness" which inevitably leads to escapism and irresponsibility. Furthermore, Hegel contended, the ironic stance is shamelessly elitist. Since the ironist believes the world is too complicated to change, he feels justified in withdrawing into a "god-like geniality." From this perspective above the fray, the privileged "artistic" few, the cognoscenti, are inclined to "look down upon the ordinary man as limited and dull." The result, according to Hegel, is both a contempt for the masses and an inability to become involved in meaningful causes. Hence, ironic detachment seemed to Hegel to be the cause of a peculiarly modern form of sickness: one which predisposed the individual to "abstract inwardness" and eroded his power to become filled with a personal "content that is solid and substantial." With the loss of what he termed "character" came the loss of something even more important: the vision of what is "highest and best" in life. If an age were entirely given over to irony it would be unable to take seriously the central issues of "justice, morality, and truth" because it would know how to maintain only a sardonic relationship to them.
- David Gross, “Irony and the ‘Disorders of the Soul,'" Telos, vol. 34 (21 December 1977), p. 169
- There are no exact guidelines. There are probably no guidelines at all. The only thing I can recommend at this stage is a sense of humor, an ability to see things in their ridiculous and absurd dimensions, to laugh at others and at ourselves, a sense of irony regarding everything that calls out for parody in this world.
- Since my earliest childhood a barb of sorrow has lodged in my heart. As long as it stays I am ironic — if it is pulled out I shall die.
- Søren Kierkegaard, Journal entry (1847)
- Irony is the birth-pangs of the objective mind (based upon the misrelationship, discovered by the I, between existence and the idea of existence). Humor is the birth-pangs of the absolute mind (based upon the misrelationship, discovered by the I, between the I and the idea of the I.)
- Søren Kierkegaard, Journals, (III B 19)
- Irony is a qualification of subjectivity.
- Irony limits, finitizes, and circumscribes and thereby yields truth, actuality, content; it disciplines and punishes and thereby yields balance and consistency.
- The presence of irony does not necessarily mean that the earnestness is excluded. Only assistant professors assume that.
- Irony is the cultivation of the spirit and therefore follows next after immediacy; then comes the ethicist, then the humourist, then the religious person.
- Irony, some say, is the art of juxtaposing incongruous parts. One needs a knowing distance. Irony presupposes detachment, which, in the case of Animal Rights, we may forgive Doctor Dillamond for being without.
- Given a long enough time, of course, a wide enough frame, there is nothing said or done, ever, that isn't ironic in the end.
- If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.
- He knew that women appreciated neither irony nor sarcasm, but simple jokes and funny stories. He was amply provided with both.
- W. Somerset Maugham in Then and Now : A Novel (1946), p. 136
- Surely the cosmic irony that loves men's dullness because it alone can preserve them from madness, and retorts upon the cosmic terrors with a jest, is higher than gallantry and more enduring. It arrives at tolerance for all human shortcomings; it embraces high and low in its sympathies; it achieves urbanity as a final goal. It is the stuff of which great literature is made.
- God is an iron … If a person who indulges in gluttony is a glutton, and a person who commits a felony is a felon, then God is an iron.
- Spider Robinson, in "God is an Iron" (1977)
- Irony is the form of paradox. Paradox is what is good and great at the same time.
- Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel, in Dialogue on Poetry and Literary Aphorisms as translated by Ernst Behler and Roman Struc (1968), p. 126
- Irony is an insult conveyed in the form of a compliment.
- Edwin Percy Whipple, in Lectures on Subjects Connected with Literature and Life (1859), Lecture III : Wit and Humor, p. 102
- If parody alone can adequately render the reality of our times, only irony offers us the freedom and detachment that are the essential condition of responsible analysis and action.