By the Waters of Babylon Questions and Answers
by Stephen Vincent Benét

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Are all three types of irony used in "By the Waters of Babylon"? Please give examples if they are.

There are only two types of irony immediately present in "By the Waters of Babylon," rather than all three. The nature of the post-apocalyptic world illustrates a striking dramatic irony. The transformation of John's mindset as he ventures into the dead places and the land of the gods shows situational irony. Verbal irony, however, is not readily present in this story.

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First of all, we have situational irony in the story. This is where there's a gap between what we expect to happen and what actually does happen. In By the Waters of Babylon we are surprised to find that the story is set in the future, given that everything seems so basic and primitive. Situational irony is epitomized by John's exploration of the ruins of what looks like an ancient city, but which is in fact New York.

Verbal irony, when someone says something contradictory to what they intend, can be observed in the warning from John's father not to let knowledge eat him up. What's ironic here is that this warning is accompanied by an encouragement to John to embark on a journey to the Place of the Gods. In other words, John's father warns him not to let knowledge eat him up, but in the same breath urges him to go to the Place of the Gods, which is precisely where he is likely to be "eaten up" by knowledge.

Finally, we have dramatic irony , where we have more information than the characters in...

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