Define irony and cite a specific example from Pride and Prejudice.

Expert Answers
Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the heart of irony is surprise, indirection, and opposites.  One thing is said but another is meant.  A character thinks one thing is going on but another is really going on.  A situation should be this, but instead it's that.  Quoting from Literature:  An Introduction to Reading and Writing by Roberts and Jacobs:

Language that states the opposite of what is intended is verbal irony....

The placement of characters in a state of ignorance is dramatic irony.... emphasis on powerlessness is situational irony....

In Austen's Pride and Prejudice, when Elizabeth spends almost the entire novel hating Darcy and then falls in love with him at the end that is ironical.  If you need something more specific, when the reader knows the truth about Darcy--that he is not the scum Elizabeth thinks he is--and Elizabeth does not know the truth, that is dramatic irony.

nusratfarah | Student

The term irony always implies some sorts of discrepancy, or disparity, or ambiguity. It means the contrast between the expectation and the reality. There is an attempt to dissemble what is actually the case, not to deceive however, but to achieve special rhetorical and artistic effects. There are different types of irony: verbal, Socratic, situational, dramatic. The very first sentence of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is a brilliant example of verbal irony.

Verbal irony means that there should remain a discrepancy between what the speaker says and what she or he actually means. In the sentence, when the speaker utters: 'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife', she is supposed to state that the nineteenth century English gentlemen always found it necessary to have wives for gaining a 'better fortune', whereas the real case was that, the men of that period (that of Austen's) who had good fortune, were always chased by women and their mothers as well, as we see in the case of Mrs. Bennet. The author actually utters something whereas means something else. This she has done to depict the real picture of that society, its follies, and to ridicule and satirize them. This one sentence envelops the key themes- money and marriage along with the basic concept of the novel.Through the use of the irony, Austen has ridiculed the social system and individual behavior by mockingly showing the extreme concern of women for a profitable marital life in order to gain a secure future; in fact they themselves do not know what a caricature they make themselves while doing so.

However, the primary function of an irony is to satirize or mock a folly or flaw.