Read the passage below and summarize it using one sentence. You have 10 minutes to finish this task. Your response will be judged on the quality of your writing and on how well your response presents the key points in the passage.
Many people have problems with irony, both in their everyday lives and as it is used or deployed in literature. We learn early on at school about “dramatic irony” that is, we are told, when the audience of a play is aware of some situation or circumstance, or has information that one or more characters in the play do not. If you like, you are sharing a secret with the writer – you are in the know. Perhaps, as you go about your daily business, irony is not so clear-cut.
Here’s an example: your neighbour draws your attention to how lovely the dandelions and daisies growing in your lawn are. Now, to someone not familiar with the care and attention many English people give to their gardens, this might need a bit of explanation. Lawns are grass, and are cut and rolled regularly so that a professional golfer could practice his putting on it. Daisies and dandelions are weeds. For a moment- but just for a moment- you wonder how serious your neighbour is being. Does he really think the weeds are lovely or is he telling you – in a rather superior way – that you’re a lousy gardener?
Irony, however, usually needs an audience; and not only does it need some people to get the point, it also very much needs there to be people who don’t. There is, it has to be said, a rather undemocratic air of superiority about it.
Irony is slippery, sometimes difficult to get a firm hold on, and can easily backfire, like a joke that falls flat. Those who don’t like irony- usually those who don’t get the point – argue that, in a world that is already difficult enough to deal with, why should we want to complicate things further? Why throw everything you say into doubt? Besides, there’s an unpleasant air of intellectual snobbery about it, and that sort of thing doesn’t go down well any more.
Irony is difficult to define, but it usually requires an audience combining some people who get the point and some people who don’t, and because of this, it has an air of intellectual snobbery about it.