In this lesson, learn what irony is and how it’s used in a novel. Keep reading to learn how Sir William Golding uses irony in his well-known book, ”Lord of the Flies.’.
What Is Irony?
Imagine you are lost on an island with a friend. You desperately want to build a signal fire to be spotted and rescued. However, your friend thinks the idea is stupid and refuses to help you.
Weeks later, a lightning storm creates a wildfire that spreads quickly across the island and closes in on you from all sides. You and your friend flee to the beach, but there is nowhere left to run. You will surely be swallowed by smoke and flame.Then you see it: a boat just beyond the shoreline where you are standing. How did that boat get there? How did it know that you needed rescuing? Well, it was attracted by the smoke and flames. If only you had built a signal fire earlier, you could have been rescued sooner!While pretty bleak, this is a good example of irony.
Irony in literature (better known as situational irony) exists when a character believes one thing will happen, but the exact opposite thing happens instead – usually producing a funny, though sometimes bitter, effect on the events unfolding.This example is lifted directly from Sir William Golding’s famous novel, Lord of the Flies, which uses irony in many important ways. Jack starts a wildfire to find Ralph, but the smoke brings a rescue boat to the island. This is ironic because Jack originally said a signal fire was a stupid idea.
Irony in Literature
Irony can be used to make a story funnier with unpredictable, ironic situations. Irony can also be used to make a story more tragic. In this case, characters will be blindsided by horrible events they never saw coming. Golding uses irony in Lord of the Flies to emphasize the tragedy his characters experience. We’ll now look at a couple more examples of how irony is used in Lord of the Flies.
Irony is shown in Jack’s call for structure. When the boys decide to choose a leader and establish order, Jack insists that they have structure to their debates and voting. He says, ‘We need to have rules…
we’re not savages.’ This is ironic because Jack is the character that leads the others on a path of animal savagery and violence before they are rescued.Irony can also be seen in the evolution of Jack’s violence. When the boys begin to hunt, Jack is bothered by the idea of taking a pig’s life and is unable to kill the animal.
When questioned by the other boys, Jack states ‘I was going to…I’ll get it next time.
‘ This situation makes the reader believe that Jack is not able to hurt another creature. However, by the end of the book, Jack has the complete opposite response. When he is angry with Ralph, he does not just emotionally and physically hurt Ralph, but he also convinces the boys that Ralph must be murdered.
Irony can be found in Ralph, too. When the boys first arrive on the island, Ralph believes that there is no immediate danger. He imagines the island as an escape from parents, teachers, and adults.
He tells the boys they should play and have fun until they are rescued. However, by the end of the book, Ralph is fighting for order and definitely not having any fun. He is running scared, trying to avoid and escape a murderous group of savage boys.
Poor disrespected Piggy is an example of irony as well. While on the island, Piggy is often teased for his heaviness and his ideas. The boys think so little of Piggy that they never even bother to learn his real name.
Instead, they give him the cruel nickname Piggy.Their lack of respect for Piggy is ironic because Piggy is actually the most intelligent character in the book. He makes the best suggestions for survival and has the best ideas to resolve conflicts and maintain order when the boys begin to get out of control.
Unfortunately, no one bothers to listen to him.
Sir William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is a tragic story of innocent children turning into wild savages. He uses irony, which in literature is when a character believes one thing will happen, but the exact opposite thing happens instead – usually producing a funny, though sometimes bitter, effect on the events unfolding. This use of irony is to make their story even more bitter because the boys don’t expect how wrong their expectations ultimately are – whether it’s Ralph’s belief that fun will relieve the tedium of waiting for rescue or Jack’s use of fire to smoke Ralph out being what ultimately leads to their rescue.