Verbal irony is when a statement seems to contradict itself, or something said is the opposite of what you’d expect. It is used often in To Kill a Mockingbird, and adds to the dry humor.
My favorite example is from chapter 7.
The second grade was as bad as the first, only worse—they still flashed cards at you and wouldn’t let you read or write. (chapter 7)
This is from the beginning of the chapter. It is ironic because second grade is when you are supposed to learn to read and write. What Scout actually means is that she is far advanced for her age, and her teachers won’t let her read and write at her level because they are still teaching her to read and write.
An example from chapter 8 is when the children first experience snow. Scout comments that the snow is hot, and Jem responds, “No it ain’t, it’s so cold it burns” (chapter 8). This is another example of verbal irony, because something cold should not literally burn.
In chapter 9, Atticus tells Louis why he is going to defend Tom Robinson even though he is unlikely to win the trial.
“Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win,” Atticus said. (chapter 9)
This is ironic because it literally means that even though you lost 100 years ago you should still try to win.