What does irony mean? What does narration mean? What does personification mean? And what does satire mean?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Irony is a literary technique in which words, characters, or plot development are used to create the exact opposite of what would be expected in terms of literal meaning or intention (Random House Dictionary). There are three different types of irony: verbal irony, dramatic irony, and situational irony. All types of irony create a contrast between actuality and expectations.

Verbal irony is one of the most well-known forms of irony. In verbal irony, a writer or speaker uses words to mean the exact opposite of the literal meanings of the words. As Lyman A. Baker of Kansas State University phrases it, "The speaker intends to be understood as meaning something that contrasts with the literal or usual meaning" ("Verbal Irony"). Baker also provides us with the example of a mother saying to her son engrossed in watching South Park, "When you're finished with your serious studies there, maybe we could take some time out for recreation and do a little math" ("Verbal Irony").

Dramatic irony is a contrast between audience/reader and the characters. More specifically, when using dramatic irony, the writer allows the audience to understand much more about a character's situation than the character understands at that particular moment ("Dramatic Irony"). Jane Austen uses a great deal of dramatic irony in Pride and Prejudice. One example is seen when after having rejected Elizabeth at the Meryton ball, later during a dinner party at Sir Lucas's, Mr. Darcy does indeed ask Elizabeth to dance. Elizabeth assumes he is doing so only to mock her, yet the reader soon understands due to his comment about her "fine eyes" that Darcy is actually falling for Elizabeth (Ch. 6).

Situational irony is a contrast between an audience's/reader's expectations and what actually happens. In using situational irony, a writer leads a reader to believe that the exact opposite will happen as a result of a situation than what actually happens ("Situational Irony"). We can also refer to Jane Austen for an example of situational irony. In Pride and Prejudice, early in the book, the reader would not expect Elizabeth to learn her judgements of Darcy had been incorrect and to begin falling for him, yet she does.

Narration simply refers to the means by which a story is told. If an author uses a great deal of irony to relay a story, like in the examples above, then we would say that irony is a part of the story's narration. When we speak of narration, we are also looking at the point of view through which a story is told, such as first person and third person omniscient or third person limited (Purdue University, "Narration").

Personification is a very frequently used element of figurative language. In using this device, a writer attributes "human traits and characteristics" to "inanimate objects, phenomena and animals." One common example is "the warm and comforting fire"; fire cannot literally be comforting ("Personification").