Irony is one of the most popular and effective stylistic devices used in literature. Obviously, irony is closely connected with the delicate humor. When you want to point at the negative side of your colleague in a soft and friendly way, you can use an ironic phrase.
Secondly, irony is the best tool against censorship. When you cannot say something directly, you are able to say it in an ironic way. There are many kinds of irony, which fulfil different functions in a text. It is possible to say that there are two major approaches towards irony in literature. Firstly, one can just find irony in a text and define its basic type. Secondly, one can find irony and interpret it according to the situation, place and time. In this case, one will have to explain the meaning and importance of this type of irony for the mentioned situation or a larger text.
The first basic type of irony is verbal irony. This device is associated with the indirect presentation of information. When your listener expects you to say something but you avoid offending him, you can say it in other words using verbal irony. Consequently, the listener will not take your words literally. For example, when you are not satisfied with the result of your work, you can say Excellent! As you see, verbal irony is connected with sarcasm. When we speak about literature, we can mention The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer. The author used sarcasm to describe the clergy as merry people though they seduced women and took bribes.
The second type is dramatic irony. This type of irony is characterized with the fact that the reader and the audience know about the further development of events in a book or play. Very often, dramatic irony is related with the crucial information, which can influence the fate of the definite character. Of course, the character does not know about this piece of information. This stylistic device is most often used in horror films, because the audience is omniscient about the plans and further decisions and actions of a killer. The viewer simply observes the character becoming the victim of his fate. The best example of dramatic irony can be met in Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Romeo thought that Juliet was dead and committed suicide though the audience knew that the girl was just sleeping. Dramatic irony is connected with cosmic irony, because both elements have a shade of misfortune. For example, the constructors of the Titanic claimed that the vessel was unbreakable though it sank during its very first voyage.
The third type is situational irony. This device is used to emphasize irony in the definite situation or context. For example, the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ry Bradbury was in the list of the outlawed books in the USA. This detail is very funny and ironic, because this book is about the prohibition of reading in a totalitarian state.
Finally, it is possible to say a few words about the interpretation of irony. This device is very vague and broad. An inexperienced reader will not notice it at all. Sometimes, irony is used to explain the hidden meaning of the definite situation or the entire text. If we focus on the further analysis of Romeo and Juliet, we will find this kind of irony. Everyone will agree with me that the situation of the death of both main characters is dramatic. Nevertheless, the result of this death is ironic, because both families reconciled and stopped their quarrels. Both families had to sacrifice their children in order to understand that their war was meaningless and vain. William Shakespeare described human foolishness and stubbornness with the help of this strong and shocking irony of fate.
In conclusion, irony is a very important and strong stylistic device in literature.