To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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Verbal Irony In To Kill A Mockingbird

What are some verbal ironies in Chapters 1-3 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

 


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booboosmoosh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There are several examples of verbal irony used in Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird often attached to Scout.  I'll provide one with which to get you started.

Dr. L. Kip Wheeler provides the following definition:

IRONY: Cicero referred to irony as "saying one thing and meaning another." Irony comes in many forms. Verbal irony (also called sarcasm) is a trope in which a speaker makes a statement in which its actual meaning differs sharply from the meaning that the words ostensibly express. Often this sort of irony is plainly sarcastic in the eyes of the reader, but the characters listening in the story may not realize the speaker's sarcasm as quickly as the readers do.

One example of verbal irony is when Miss Caroline tells Scout that her father does not know how to teach and therefore cannot teach her to read when she already does read, and quite well. When Scout complains to Atticus, he agrees that they will keep reading, but secretly: this is his compromise.

The verbal irony appears when Atticus says:

I have a feeling that if you tell Miss Caroline we read every night she'll get after me, and I wouldn't want her after me.

Atticus is obviously not afraid of Miss Caroline and is intentionally saying something contrary to what he believes, probably to entertain Scout who has been so upset.

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mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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As a literary device, irony is the general name given to such techniques that involve surprising, interesting, or amusing contradictions.  With verbal irony , words are used to indicate the opposite of their usual meaning.  Here are some examples of this type of...

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