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Chapter 7: Paradox, Overstatement, Understatement and Irony.

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James Rowland

on 23 October 2013

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Transcript of Chapter 7: Paradox, Overstatement, Understatement and Irony.

Chapter 7: Paradox, Overstatement, Understatement and Irony.
"What a pity that youth must be wasted on the young."- George Bernard Shaw

"I can resist anything but temptation"-Oscar Wilde

"All animals are equal but some are more equal than others"-Animal Farm

A paradox is an apparent contradiction that is nevertheless true.To understand paradox, a consideration of all conditions and circumstances should be made.
A paradox's seemingly impossiblity shocks the reader into attention. Beacuse of the paradox's apparent absurdity, it highlights the truth of what is being said.
Examples in poetry:
Much madness is divinest sense by Emily Dickinson.
Much madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye,
Much sense, the starkest madness.
`Tis the majority
In this, as all, prevail:
Assent, and you are sane;
Demur, you’re straightway dangerous
And handled with a chain.

Can you detect the irony in these images?
Irony is a general term, covering a few types of irony. However, the term irony always implies a sort of discrepancy or incongruity.
There are three types of irony: verbal irony, dramatic irony, and situational irony.
Verbal Irony essentially means saying the opposite of what one means. However, it is often confused with sarcasm and satire. Sarcasm is bitter or cutting speech, meant to be hurtful. Satire ridicules human vice or greed with the purpose of attempting to inform or reformg society. Verbal Irony can have more complex forms such as meaning both what is said and the opposite of what is said, at the same time.
Verbal Irony Example:
The Adversary
By Phyllis McGinley

A mother’s hardest to forgive.
Life is the fruit she longs to hand you,
Ripe on a plate. And while you live,
Relentlessly she understands you
Dramatic Irony is the discrepancy between what the speaker says and what the poem means. The speaker's words may be completely straightforward, but by the author putting these words in a particular speaker, may be implying ideas or attitude that are opposed. This type of irony can also establish character as the author is indirectly commenting upon the nature of the speaker's values and ideas. Do not confuse it with the dramatic irony used in tragedy.
Dramatic Irony Example:
he Chimney Sweeper
By William Blake (1757-1827)

When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry " 'weep! 'weep! 'weep! 'weep!' "
So your chimneys I sweep and in soot I sleep.

There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head
That curled like a lamb's back, was shaved: so I said,
"Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head's bare
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair."

And so he was quiet, and that very night,
As Tom was a-sleeping he had such a sight!
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned and Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black.

And by came an Angel who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins and set them all free;
Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing, they run,
And wash in a river and shine in the Sun.

Situational Irony is a discrepancy between the actual circumstances and what is expected to happen. Basically, the opposite of what is expected.
Situational Irony Example:
By Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Overstatement: I will die if I fail this test!!!
When Wordsworth reports of his golden daffodils in "I wandered lonely as a cloud" that they "stretched in never-ending line" along the margin of a bay, he too reports faithfully a visual appearance. When Frost says, at the conclusion of "The Road not Taken", "I shall be telling this with a sigh / Somewhere ages and ages hence", we are scarcely aware of the overstatement, so quietly is the assertion made. Unskillfully used, however, overstatement may seem strained, leading us to react as Gertrude does to the player-queen's speeches in Hamlet: "The lady doth protest too much".
Overstatement, or hyperbole, is simply exaggeration, but exaggeration in the service of truth.It is not the same as a fish story. If you say, "I'm starved!" or "You could have knocked me over with a feather!" or "I'll die if I don't pass this course!" you do not expect to be taken literally; you are merely adding emphasis to what you really mean.
(And if you say, "There were literally millions of people at the beach!" you are merely piling one overstatement on top of another, for you really mean, "There were figuratively millions of people at the beach", or, literally, "The beach was very crowded".)
Like all figures of speech,overstatement may be used with a variety of effects. It may be humorous or grave, fanciful or restrained, convincing or unconvincing. When Tennyson says of his eagle that it is "Close to the sun in lonely lands"; he says what appears to be literally true, though we know from our study of astronomy that it is not.
It might be a little chilly outside today...
Understatement means, "saying less than one means." e.g. After George is pierced with a thousand arrows, he says, “I have been slightly punctured.” It is stating less than truth, which emphasizes it. This relationship along with overstatement is inherently paradoxical. By overstating or understating the truth, the truth is emphasized.
Example of Understatement in Poetry
Fire and Ice by Robert Frost
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Frost emphasizes the power of ice for destruction by understating it using just "great". The poem understates its topic with a simple, casual tone.
The End
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