Key Difference – Irony and Paradox
Irony and Paradox are two literary devices that are used in the literature between which a key difference can be identified. Irony is the expression of meaning through the use of language which normally means the opposite. Irony applied to various contexts. A paradox, on the other hand, is a statement that seems to contradict itself but may, in fact, be true. The key difference between irony and paradox is that in irony there exists a mismatch or incongruity between what is perceived and what occurs, but a paradox is a clear contradiction. Through this article let us examine the differences between irony and paradox.
What is Irony?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines irony as the expression of meaning through the use of language which normally means the opposite. In simpler terms, irony is the incongruity between what a person expects and what happens. This is a literary device that is used extensively in literary works. Irony consists of many subcategories. Of these three subcategories are considered as major forms of irony. They are situational irony, verbal irony, and literal irony. Other than these there are other subcategories such as dramatic irony, cosmic irony, Socratic irony, etc.
Let us take an example to understand what irony means. In the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare, the King Duncan goes on praising Macbeth for his qualities, all the while Macbeth is planning on murdering the king. This is an instance of irony because although the king perceives something, the result is of the complete opposite. This can further be categorized as an instance of situational irony as well.
What is Paradox?
A paradox is a statement that seems to contradict itself but may, in fact, be true. There are some paradoxes that appear to be true and also false at the same time. Paradoxes are mostly used with logic and are believed to highlight the quirks that exist in logic. When you first read a paradox, you will notice that it is not some nonsensical sentence but sounds reasonable. It is after some consideration that we notice that the sentence is, in fact, self-contradictory. For an example, less is more is an example of a paradox. When speaking of paradoxes, we can identify two categories. They are literary paradox and logical paradox. Literary paradoxes lack the logical quality that can be noticed in logical paradoxes as the titles suggest. It is this lack of quality that often leads to confusion with irony.
Here are some examples of paradoxes from English literature.
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man
By William Wordsworth
Alas, that love, whose view is muffled still,
Should, without eyes, see pathways to his will!
Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love.
Why, then, O brawling love! O loving hate!
O anything, of nothing first create!
O heavy lightness! serious vanity!
Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms!
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!
This love feel I, that feel no love in this
By William Shakespeare
What is the difference between Irony and Paradox?
Definitions of Irony and Paradox:
Irony: Irony is the expression of meaning through the use of language which normally means the opposite.
Paradox: A paradox is a statement that seems to contradict itself but may, in fact, be true.
Characteristics of Irony and Paradox:
Irony: Situational irony, verbal irony, literal irony, dramatic irony, cosmic irony, and Socratic irony are categories of irony.
Paradox: Literal and logical paradoxes are the categories of paradox.
Irony: Irony is an incongruity.
Paradox: Paradox is usually a clear contradiction.
1. Lady Macbeth By George Cattermole – [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons
2. Pinocchio paradox By Carlo Chiostri (1863 – 1939)derivative work: Mbz1 (talk) [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons
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