Irony in Animal Farm: Examples & Analysis

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  • 0:01 Definition of Irony
  • 0:23 Situational Irony
  • 1:33 Dramatic Irony
  • 2:47 Verbal Irony
  • 3:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

Irony is used by George Orwell in 'Animal Farm' to make light of serious situations and keep the reader engaged. Let's learn more about the three types of irony used in 'Animal Farm.'

Definition of Irony

Have you ever heard a politician promise to lower taxes just before taxes are raised? When the opposite of what you would expect to happen occurs, it's called irony. There are three types of irony that are represented in the novella Animal Farm by George Orwell. In this lesson, we will learn about situational, dramatic, and verbal irony.

Situational Irony

After a drunken party, Squealer, the pig who is the political voice of Animalism, announces that Napoleon, the dictator pig, is dying. Napoleon has proclaimed that drinking alcohol is punishable by death, but by the time his hangover subsides, Napoleon feels differently. By the evening of that day, Napoleon was back at work, and on the next day it was learned that he had instructed Whymper (a Man who assists Napoleon with business dealings) to purchase in Willingdon some booklets on brewing and distilling.

In this example of situational irony, an unexpected action occurs when Napoleon changes his opinion on alcohol so drastically within a matter of hours. He ends up setting aside a field for growing barley so that he is able to brew his own beer.

We see situational irony again at the end of the book as the pigs become indistinguishable from Man after Old Major explicitly warns the animals not to turn into what they despise:

'The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.'

Dramatic Irony

The animals think that they remember Old Major's (a well-respected pig who inspires Animalism before his death) words that had become the Seven Commandments, but their illiteracy makes them unsure:

'Never to have any dealings with human beings, never to engage in trade, never to make use of money - had not these been among the earliest resolutions passed at that first triumphant Meeting after Jones was expelled? All the animals remembered passing such resolutions: or at least they thought that they remembered it.'

The reader doesn't forget what the commandments are, but we also have the advantage of seeing it for ourselves. The animal's forgetfulness is an example of dramatic irony. Dramatic irony gives the reader information that one or more of the characters does not know, thereby, creating incongruous dialogue.

Illiteracy proves to be a problem again when the animals cheerfully bid Boxer, the hardworking horse, goodbye, thinking that he is going to a veterinary hospital for treatment.

'The animals crowded round the van. 'Good-bye, Boxer!' they chorused, 'good-bye!' '

Had they been able to read, they would have known that Boxer was being sent to a slaughterhouse and glue boiler.

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