Explore the role of verbal irony in "Harrison Bergeron."

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Let us remember that verbal irony is when words are said that are the opposite of the truth. In this excellent short story, we can see verbal irony through the description of how the hindrances that ensure perfect equality impact activities such as the dancing that George and Hazel watch on the television. Consider the way, for example, that Hazel describe the dance on the television by the ballerinas as being "real pretty" and "nice." Of course, George is able to realise that there is verbal irony in this statement:

They weren't really very good--no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sash weights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in.

Of course, these ruminations are swiftly brought to a close by another loud sound that comes from his ear radio, scattering his thoughts. Verbal irony is thus used to explore the equality in this society and the devastating impact it has had on individuals.


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