What is an example of dramatic irony in Fahrenheit 451?
Let us remind ourselves of the definition of dramatic irony. Dramatic irony is a form of irony when one character and/or the audience knows something that other characters do not. The classic example is of course in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, where at the end, the audience knows that Juliet is just about to come to life again, but Romeo does not, and he kills himself just before it happens.
Thinking about this concept, it is clear that one example of dramatic irony could concern Mildred's attempt to kill herself and then her subsequent unawareness of this fact and what was done to save her the next morning. When Montag asks Mildred about last night, she responds:
"What? Did we have a wild party or something? Feel like I've a hangover. God, I'm hungry. Who was here?"
Her inability to remember what happened is an excellent example of dramatic irony, as is her assumption that they had a party and she is suffering from a hangover rather than the after-effects of having her life saved from her suicide attempt.
In Fahrenheit 451, there are a number of examples of dramatic irony (when the reader knows more than the character). Here are some examples:
- When Montag is sick at home, Beatty visits him and gives him a lecture on the history of the fireman system. Beatty tells Montag that the firemen were introduced around the time of the Civil War with the purpose of setting fire to houses. In contrast, the reader knows firemen have always existed to put out fires and that Beatty's real intention is to steer Montag away from reading books.
- Also in this scene, the reader knows Montag has hidden a book under his pillow, but Mildred does not. This explains Montag's anxiety when she tries to straighten up his pillows.
- When Montag first visits Faber's apartment, Faber assumes he is in trouble and demonstrates a hostile attitude towards his guest. The reader, however, knows Montag is in the early stages of rebellion and is genuinely searching for help to bring down the fireman system.