Irony in Brave New World

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  • 0:03 Irony's Purpose in the Novel
  • 0:35 Example of Situational Irony
  • 1:21 Example of Dramatic Irony
  • 2:04 Example of Verbal Irony
  • 3:06 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.

The culture of the dystopian World State is decidedly different from ours in regards to life, love, communication, and happiness. Irony is used by Aldous Huxley in 'Brave New World' to demonstrate these differences.

Irony's Purpose in the Novel

'It's like rain on your wedding day. It's a free ride when you've already paid,' sings Alanis Morissette in her 1995 song 'Ironic.' How does this apply to literature? Aldous Huxley uses several types of irony in Brave New World to demonstrate how the World State's motto 'Community, Identity, Stability' has impacted the morals of the society. We will learn more about how irony is used to indicate differences in the expectations of children, to express cultural differences in communication styles, and to express frustration.

Example of Situational Irony

During the Director's student tour of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, the group steps into the garden to observe children at play in an example of situational irony. Situational irony is when a character's behavior is completely opposite of what you would expect. The young children are outside playing sexual games with one another. When the Director asks why one of the boys is screaming, the nurse's response is shocking from our cultural perspective. 'Nothing much,' she answered. 'It's just that this little boy seems rather reluctant to join in the ordinary erotic play. I'd noticed it once or twice before. And now again to-day. He started yelling just now.' The reader is left with the feeling that we are not in Kansas anymore, when a child's nurse thinks that there is something wrong with children that don't want to have sex.

Example of Dramatic Irony

The reader is aware that John has fallen passionately in love with Lenina, but her doubts on whether or not he even likes her provide dramatic irony. Dramatic irony happens when the reader knows more than the character in the story. Having been raised in a different culture at the Savage Reservation, John behaves very differently from the other men Lenina has known. Pondering whether or not John likes her, Lenina tells Fanny, 'Sometimes I think he does and sometimes I think he doesn't. He always does his best to avoid me; goes out of the room when I come in; won't touch me; won't even look at me. But sometimes if I turn round suddenly, I catch him staring; and then-well, you know how men look when they like you.' John and Lenina's lack of communication create an ironic standstill.

Example of Verbal Irony

John the Savage is so hopeful when he comes to England with Lenina and Bernard, since he does not feel like he fits in at the Savage Reservation, but when he expresses his disappointment to Mustapha Mond, it is with verbal irony. Verbal irony is when a character knowingly says something that is not true to make a point.

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