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A Lesson in Irony

Suggested Level

Suggested Applications

Middle and High School Language Arts, World-War-II

Students will:
• Define and identify the literary term "irony."
• Describe irony in comic strips.
• Interpret and explain Crawford’s actions.
• Evaluate the word “unassuming” in two different contexts.

Medal of Honor Focus: William Crawford, Private, U.S. Army, 36th Infantry Division / World War II

For the Teacher:
Irony is defined as the difference between what is said and what is meant, what is said and what actually
occurs, or between the meaning and what is understood. Irony is used in fiction, theater and rhetoric. Irony
may be intentional or unintentional; however, the incongruity between words and meaning or actions and
meaning is the key to understanding irony in both writing and speech. Fundamentally, irony is always a
break between what is said or done and what is meant or intended.

Dramatic Irony: A situation in which the audience knows something about present or future circumstances
that the character does not know.

Example: In Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, Oedipus searches to find the murderer of the former king of Thebes,
only to discover that he is the killer. The audience knows this all along.

Verbal Irony: A contradiction of expectation between what is said and what is meant.

Example: In Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, Marc Antony says the following even when he knows
that Brutus killed Julius Caesar, "Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honourable man."

Situational Irony: A contradiction of expectation between what might be expected and what actually occurs,
Example #1: The following is from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Coleridge —

Water, water, every where, And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink

In this example it is ironic that water is everywhere but none of it can be drunk.
Example #2: When you stayed up all night cramming for a test the next day, and the test is actually not
until the next week.

Look for other examples of situational irony. This is the most modern use of a term that has been relevant for
a very long time. Situational irony may refer to an unusual coincidence or unexpected happening that results
in a surprise for those present or involved. While both verbal and dramatic irony are intentional, situational irony is not.

Introductory Activity:
After an explanation of the literary term irony, discuss examples depending on the grade level. Encourage the
class to think of more examples to strengthen the understanding of irony.

Whole Group Activity:
Look at examples of irony in a comic strip. Discuss irony and give instructions on how to identify examples of irony
in comic strips.

Small Group/Individual Activity:
Students will locate three comic strips that demonstrate irony. Cut out the strips and adhere to paper. Under each
strip identify the example of irony and explain how it is ironic. Post comic strips on walls.

Whole Group Activity:
Watch the vignette about William Crawford. Students will look for examples of irony in the vignette.

Concluding Activity:
Complete viewing guide on William Crawford. Complete the open-ended item on the viewing guide.

Essay, completed viewing guide, comic strips demonstrating irony

Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty. NY: Artisan, 2006.

Comic strips, dictionary

Quote: "The legacy of brave men an dwomen who have fought and died for their country is the freedom we enjoy as Americans." - Lucian Adams, Army-World War II

In Their Own Words - WIlliam Crawford