What is the difference between verbal irony and hyperbole in The Crucible?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Verbal irony is where a person says one thing and means another. Hyperbole is an exaggerated statement which is not meant to be taken literally, but used to prove a point.

Both verbal irony and hyperbole are used in Arthur Miller's play The Crucible.

Verbal irony is seen when Elizabeth is being questioned in court about John's affair with Abigail. Elizabeth is stated to be a woman who will not lie. Unfortunately, to protect John, Elizabeth lies in court and states that he was not a lecher. Readers, Elizabeth and John all know that this is a lie.

A hyperbole is seen when Hale states that if Rebecca is taken to the gallows and hung for witchcraft that all is lost. If Rebecca is hung, nothing will be able to save the rest of Salem. This is an exaggeration given that Rebecca's death does not really mean that all of Salem will die. Hale is simply using this to strike fear into the villagers.

Therefore, the differences between the two is based upon how they are used and the meaning behind their uses. Each is used to try to protect, but they work very differently based upon the defined usage. Readers know that Elizabeth is lying and why she does it. Readers know that the death of Rebecca is an exaggeration based upon the fact that her death does not technically mean all others will die.


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