How does Jane Austen's Emma demonstrate the various forms of irony?

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Jane Austen's Emma demonstrates various forms of irony, often with the character of Emma herself. At various points in the novel, Emma and situations in which she finds herself reveal verbal, situational, and dramatic irony.

Verbal irony, which often involves either sarcasm or a verbal pun, can be seen when Emma alludes to how dull Miss Bates is. Miss Bates says, “I shall be sure to say three dull things as soon as ever I open my mouth, shan't I?” Then the author notes:

Emma could not resist.

“Ah! ma'am, but there may be a difficulty. Pardon me—but you will be limited as to number—only three at once.”

Although this sarcasm is a form of verbal irony, Emma does not intend it to hurt Miss Bates’ feelings. Emma truly believes that Miss Bates will not pick up on the irony in her comments. When Knightly chides her, she tells him, “I dare say she did not understand me.”

Situational irony is seen in Emma’s relationship with Frank Churchill. Much of their conversation is about Jane...

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 13, 2020