Irony comes from an ancient Greek word, 'eirōneía', which means hypocrisy or feigned ignorance. It is often used by authors to make things look lifelike. There are three types of irony―verbal irony, dramatic irony, and situational irony.
Situational and verbal irony is often intentionally used as emphasis in an assertion of a truth. It is that which results from recognizing the oddness or unfairness of a given situation, irrespective of whether the outcome is positive or negative. Sometimes, the outcome may be very amusing in such unusual circumstances. It is also called an irony of events. Let us take a look at some examples to get a better understanding of it.
In ChristianityDuring the time of the Pharaohs, in ancient Egypt, Moses was born at a time when the children of Israel were increasing in number, thus posing a threat to the Egyptian Pharaoh, who feared that these children would grow up and help the enemies of Egypt. However, Moses's mother tried to hide him when the Pharaoh ordered all newborn baby boys to be killed and Moses was eventually adopted by the Egyptian royal family. In the end, it was Moses who was responsible for the downfall of the Pharaoh.
In 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz', Dorothy goes to a wizard to fulfill her wish to go home before discovering that she had the ability to go back home all this while. The Scarecrow longs for intelligence only to discover that he is a genius, just as the Tin Man longs to be capable of love only to discover that he has a heart. Similarly, the Lion who at first seems to be a coward, turns out to be very courageous.
One of the best irony examples for kids would be from O Henry's 'The Gift of the Magi'. In this story, there is a Christian married couple who is very poor. So, to give each other Christmas gifts, the wife cuts off her beautiful long hair to a wig-maker for money and buys a chain for her husbands heirloom pocket watch. Meanwhile, the husband sells his heirloom watch to buy his wife pretty combs for her long and beautiful hair.
In 'The Merchant of Venice' written by William Shakespeare, Portia and Nerissa dress up as a judge and a clerk, and try to persuade Shylock to take money instead of a pound of Antonio's flesh. However, after he refuses, Portia ensures that Shylock does not get the pound of flesh nor any money. All this while, Antonio, Bassanio and Gratiano are completely unaware of the fact that the judge and clerk are none other than Portia and Nerissa.
In Real Life
When there was an assassination attempt made on President Ronald Reagan, all the shots fired by John Hinckley initially missed the President. However, one of the bullets ricocheted off the bullet proof limousine and struck the President on the chest. Thus, although the vehicle was actually made bullet proof for the protection of the President, it was partially responsible for him being shot.
Another example of irony is when, in 1974, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission had to recall 80,000 of its own label buttons which promoted 'toy safety', because these buttons had sharp edges, used lead paint and even had small clips which could be broken off and swallowed!
The English language is full of such amazing examples of irony that only help to enhance the beauty of this wonderful language!