Irony and Ambiguity

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The Best Stories Irony Ambiguity Practice

The Best Stories
The best stories are the ones that present life and people the way they really are.

mysterious unpredictable complicated
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Irony
Irony is the difference between what we expect or what seems suitable and what actually happens. Writers include irony in stories to reflect the real world—a world where expectations aren’t always fulfilled and unexpected events often surprise us.
Katie’s grandfather taught her to play chess a few weeks ago. Now, she consistently wins matches against her grandfather and the other members of his chess club.

Irony
In stories, we find three kinds of irony. • Verbal irony occurs when someone says one thing but means the opposite. • Situational irony occurs when an event is not just surprising but actually contrary to what we expected. • Dramatic irony occurs when the audience or the reader knows something important that the character does not know.

Irony
Quick Check
Mr. Hapner wants to sell his old van. A prospective buyer, Mrs. Duran, shows up to look at the van. She notices that it is rusty and dented, the front bumper is missing, and the engine will barely start. A. “Oh, sir,” she says, “are you sure you want to part with this gem?” B. “Oh, sir,” she says, “do you really expect to sell this piece of junk?” Based on the passage, which statement would be an example of verbal irony?

Irony
Quick Check
Mr. Hapner wants to sell his old van. A prospective buyer, Mrs. Duran, shows up to look at the van. She notices that it is rusty and dented, the front bumper is missing, and the engine will barely start. A. “Oh, sir,” she says, “are you sure you want to part with this gem?” B. “Oh, sir,” she says, “do you really expect to sell this piece of junk?” Based on the passage, which statement would be an example of verbal irony? Statement A

Irony
Quick Check
Dr. Kwan is a pet psychologist. A leader in her field, she has received several awards for her research and clinical successes. Dr. Kwan publishes a book called The Workings of a Dog’s Mind: How to Get Unruly Dogs to Behave, and it soars up the bestseller list. A. Dr. Kwan gets an offer to host a television show about pets. B. Dr. Kwan comes home to find that her two dogs have gnawed on several pairs of her shoes and ruined them. Based on the passage, which statement would be an example of situational irony?

Irony
Quick Check
Dr. Kwan is a pet psychologist. A leader in her field, she has received several awards for her research and clinical successes. Dr. Kwan publishes a book called The Workings of a Dog’s Mind: How to Get Unruly Dogs to Behave, and it soars up the bestseller list. A. Dr. Kwan gets an offer to host a television show about pets. B. Dr. Kwan comes home to find that her two dogs have gnawed on several pairs of her shoes and ruined them. Based on the passage, which statement would be an example of situational irony? Statement B

Irony
Quick Check
Detective Boone, the main character of a play, is trying to solve a rash of burglaries in his precinct. The audience knows that one of the other characters, a server at a coffee shop frequented by the detective, is the burglar. A. We watch as Detective Boone talks to the server about his investigation and shares sensitive information. B. Another detective eventually solves the case, and the server is arrested.
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Based on the passage, which statement would be an example of dramatic irony?

Irony
Quick Check
Detective Boone, the main character of a play, is trying to solve a rash of burglaries in his precinct. The audience knows that one of the other characters, a server at a coffee shop frequented by the detective, is the burglar. A. We watch as Detective Boone talks to the server about his investigation and shares sensitive information. B. Another detective eventually solves the case, and the server is arrested. Based on the passage, which statement would be an example of dramatic irony? Statement A

Ambiguity
Ambiguity is an element of uncertainty in a text. Ambiguous texts offer several conflicting consequences or meanings that readers must sort out.

Ambiguity
A story with an ambiguous ending or theme • keeps us wondering about what it means • tends to stick in our memory

Ambiguity
Quick Check
Millie notices that Hector, a new student, feels left out, so she asks him to the school dance. Hector accepts. Later, Millie finds out that her best friend, Cindy, likes Hector and wants to ask him to the dance. “Oh,” says Millie, “I’m glad you told me. I asked him to the dance earlier, but I just remembered that I’ve got plans. Now, I won’t feel bad about canceling.” When Millie’s mom picks her up from school, Millie asks, “Mom, aren’t we supposed to visit Grandma this weekend? We haven’t seen her in a while.” Describe the ambiguity in this story.

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Ambiguity
Quick Check
Millie notices that Hector, a new student, feels left out, so she asks him to the school dance. Hector accepts. Later, Millie finds out that her best friend, Cindy, likes Hector and wants to ask him to the dance. “Oh,” says Millie, “I’m glad you told me. I asked him to the dance earlier, but I just remembered that I’ve got plans. Now, I won’t feel bad about canceling.” When Millie’s mom picks her up from school, Millie asks, “Mom, aren’t we supposed to visit Grandma this weekend? We haven’t seen her in a while.” Describe the ambiguity in this story. Does Millie really have other plans, or does she cancel in order to give Cindy a chance to ask Hector to the dance?

Practice
Review the definition of verbal irony. Then, write a paragraph describing a scene between two characters. Include an ironic statement made by one character. You might take inspiration from one of the characters or situations described in this presentation.

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The End

Irony
Verbal Irony “I’ve read a few books about computers,” Mr. Maner said.

Irony
Situational Irony The dentist was surprised to find a cavity when she examined her own dental X-rays.

Irony
Dramatic Irony
Maria was not expecting to receive a copy of the literary magazine because she never received a response to her poetry submission. Readers know that the acceptance letter was lost in the mail and that Maria’s poem was published.

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