Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Irony is a literary term for when an author uses a word or a bunch of words to mean the opposite of what they usually mean.  The author has a character say one thing but the actual message that the author intends to send is the opposite.

An example of this would be when Shakespeare has Hamlet say

What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty

This is ironic because Hamlet is really talking about how bad he thinks people are.

In literature, you can also have situational irony, (where something happens that seems really funny because of who it happens to) and dramatic irony (where the readers or audience know what's happening is ironic, but the characters don't).

mkcapen1 | Student

Irony in literature occurs when the writer presents one set of information but twists it to have something else happen or to give it a thwarted meaning. There are three types of irony; verbal irony, dramatic irony, and situational irony.  Verbal irony has to do with the author’s deliberate attempt to say one thing and to mean another.  Dramatic irony occurs usually in plays and entails the audience being given a misperception of a character on purpose.  Irony of situation happens when one expects one outcome but another occurs.

"The Lottery" depicts irony in that the reader expects that winning the lottery is a good thing, when in truth it is winning ones own execution.