What is irony and why should we be careful of using it?

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mizzwillie | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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Irony is the opposite of what the reader expects and if used too often or where it does not really fit, irony loses its effectiveness.  Irony in a work of literature should surprise the reader, and when you think of it that way, surprise should be used sparingly or the reader comes to expect it.   In the book, Letters to a Young Poet, Rilke is trying to convey to another writer the methods to write poetry which will affect the reader and discusses irony in the second letter as a device to be used carefully.  As a teacher, I have always said, "dig deeper" to students writing poetry, but having never read this book, I have been spreading this author's message.