The Tell-Tale Heart

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Irony in "The Tell-Tale Heart"
Definition: Irony is the perception of a clash between appearance and reality, between seems and is.
It usually falls into three kinds:

  1. situational

  2. dramatic

  3. verbal.

In situational irony, events turn out the opposite of what we expect. For example:

- A nutritionist who dies of obesity.

- A doctor who chain smokes.

  • The story of David & Goliath.

  • It rains on the Weather Bureau’s annual picnic.

Dramatic irony is saying or doing something unaware of its full meaning. It is found frequently in drama (thus the name), like when a character on stage says, “This is the happiest day in my life,” and we in the audience, and perhaps some people on stage, know that his mortgage has been foreclosed and his family wiped out at the intersection.

In Act I of Hamlet, Hamlet passionately promises his father that he will avenge his father’s death with wings as swift as meditation or the thoughts of love, and then he spends the rest of the play agonizing about what to do -- ironic!

Verbal irony is saying something contrary to what it means. The appearance is what the words say; the reality is the contrary thing they mean. Both speaker and listener are aware of the contrast. For example, I must know it’s raining to understand the irony in “What a great day for a picnic!” This silent ironic understanding may flow between author and reader (Jane Austen’s novels) or between characters within a story, which the reader enjoys by listening in.

Activity - With a partner, identify three examples of irony in the story. Give context and the page number and try to identify what kind of irony it is. Be prepared to share your answers.

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