Irony In Animal Farm

What is an example of verbal, dramatic, or situational irony in Animal Farm?

The most famous example of verbal irony in Animal Farm is when the pigs change the meaning of "equal" so that it means unequal. An example of situational irony occurs when the cowardly Napoleon awards himself medals of honor for bravery. An example of dramatic irony is when the animals can't understand what it means when they find Squealer sprawled by a broken ladder and bucket of paint near the wall with the Seven Commandments.

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In verbal irony, words mean the opposite of their intended meaning. In situational irony, events unfold in ways opposite of what might be expected. In dramatic irony, the reader or audience knows something the characters in a work of literature do not.

An example of verbal irony occurs when Squealer describes Napoleon taking dictatorial power as a "sacrifice" he is making for the good of the community:

I trust that every animal here appreciates the sacrifice that Comrade Napoleon has made in taking this extra labour upon himself. Do not imagine, comrades, that leadership is a pleasure!

Of course, despite what Squealer says, being dictator is Napoleon's (and the other pigs') chief pleasure. The most famous example of verbal irony is the way the pigs twist the meaning of the word "equal" to mean unequal.

An example of situational irony occurs when the cowardly Napoleon, who hid during the Battle of the Cowshed, decides to award himself both the Animal Hero, First Class, and the Animal Hero, Second Class medals while at the same time declaring Snowball a traitor. In reality, Snowball fought bravely and the real traitor to the ideals of animal farm is the power-hungry Napoleon.

An example of dramatic irony occurs when the animals hear a loud crash and come out to see Squealer has fallen from a ladder and is sprawled beside a "lantern, a paint-brush, and an overturned pot of white paint." The animals are not able to understand what this is all about:

None of the animals could form any idea as to what this meant.

However, we as readers know it means that the pigs have been changing the wording of the commandments.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 7, 2021
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This answer will address situational irony. Animal Farm is rife with situational irony: the whole book is framed around the sad irony that a well-intentioned "revolution" intended to bring about equality and a better life for the animals ends by recreating the same inequalities and tyranny that provoked it in the first place. Let us look at one especially powerful example of situational irony...

This example is when Boxer, the old horse who has worked hard for Animal Farm, is sent to the knacker to be euthanized. This tragic end is especially poignant and ironic because Old Major, in his speech to the animals at the beginning of the book, has warned Boxer that "the very day that those great muscles of yours lose their power, Jones will sell you to the knacker, who will cut your throat and boil you down for the foxhounds" (9). The animals undertook their uprising to avoid exactly this kind of fate for themselves, but in the end, it is Napoleon, now in power as a result of the uprising, who sends Boxer to the knacker. This is only one example of situational irony, but it is especially important because it illustrates the central irony of the book. Through their leadership of the creation of Animal Farm, the pigs have become as cruel and exploitative as the humans they replaced. By the end of the book, the animals cannot even distinguish them from men at all. Boxer, among the most loyal and hardworking of all the animals, is an ironic victim of this corrupted would-be utopia.

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Irony is when something happens that is unexpected.  Situational irony is when an event is unexpected.  Dramatic irony is when the reader knows something the character’s do not.  Verbal irony is when a phrase contradicts itself, or when the truth of an idea seems to be the opposite of what is being said.

An example of verbal irony in Animal Farm is the last commandment. 

“All animals are equal, but some animals are equal than others.” (ch 10)

This statement is ironic because the concept of all are equal and “more equal” is really contradictory and does not make sense.

An example of situational irony is when Napoleon gets drunk.

By the evening, however, Napoleon appeared to be somewhat better, and the following morning Squealer was able to tell them that he was well on the way to recovery. By the evening of that day Napoleon was back at work, and on the next day it was learned that he had instructed Whymper to purchase in Willingdon some booklets on brewing and distilling. (ch 8)

At the beginning, we expect everything to go harmoniously.  After all, the animals overthrew the evil humans.  Unfortunately, things aren’t peaceful for long.  When Napoleon gets drunk, this is situational irony because the catalyst for the revolution was Jones being a drunkard and neglecting the farm.

An example of dramatic irony is when the commandments are changed.

[Had] not these been among the earliest resolutions passed at that first triumphant Meeting after Jones was expelled? All the animals remembered passing such resolutions: or at least they thought that they remembered it. (ch 6)

As each commandment is changed, the animals think they remember it the way it was before but they aren’t sure.  The reader knows that the pigs are slowly taking over the farm and instituting a totalitarian regime, but the animals don’t.



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