What are examples of verbal irony in Anthem by Ayn Rand?

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gbeatty eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Verbal irony is when a speaker says something that's the opposite of what is intended. It can be intentional, as when a friend who hates my hat says, "Nice hat!" It can also be intentional on the author's part, but not necessarily on the part of a character.

Verbal irony happens in large and small ways throughout Rand's novel. Some of the common ways are in the language. This is a book about individuality, but early on, the narrator uses the plural pronoun "we," as in "But this is not the only sin upon us. We have committed a greater crime, and for this crime there is no name." To act as an individual but refer to oneself as "we" is ironic.

This sort of irony continues throughout the book. For example, the way the thinker is individualized is in part unequal, but says, "Our name is Equality 7-2521." That's ironic because this narrator isn't an equal.

The verbal irony extends to thematic issues. Early in the book the narrator says, "All men are good and wise. It is only we, Equality 7-2521, we alone who were born with a curse. For we are not like our brothers."

But in Rand's world, it is Equality 7-2521 who is good and wise. Being unlike his brothers is precisely one way he is good and wise. What he calls a curse is a fundamental gift.


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