Irony in Poetry

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Irony is the use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning. It is used throughout poetry and allows the reader to analyze and differentiate what seems, and what actually is. There are different types of irony including verbal, situational, and dramatic. Irony can be used in the titles of poems, or in themes and messages throughout them. There are many ways to interpret poetry, so irony is a powerful way of making a pointed comment or manipulating a reader's emotions.

Verbal irony, sometimes referred to as sarcasm, often occurs in the title of a poem, and is in direct contrast with the contents of the poem. "The Unknown Citizen" written by W.H Auden is an excellent example of this. They irony of the title, is that right under it, you read a person's social security number, followed by the rest of the poem which goes into great detail about specific things in a man life. "When there was peace, he was for peace; when there was war, he went. He was married and added five children to the population, which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation." Here lies the discrepancy between the title, and the contents of this poem. The theme of this poem demonstrates the power of the state, and the powerlessness of an individual. Auden uses irony in the title of this poem to validate the theme.

Situational irony occurs when the situation itself contradicts the readers expectations. In the poem "Porphyria's Lover" by Robert Browning, situational irony is displayed. When the reader interprets the title of this poem, they would most likely expect it to be about two lovers. but when they go on to read the poem, they realize that "the meeting of two lovers ironically results not in joy and passion, but in murder."(501) "That moment she was mine, mine, fair, perfectly pure and good: I found a thing to do, and all her hair in one long yellow string I wound three times her little throat around, and strangled her. No pain felt she, I...
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