Irony in Fahrenheit 451: Examples & Analysis

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Instructor: Kerry Gray

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

Irony occurs when a result is the opposite of the expected outcome, and is used by Bradbury in 'Fahrenheit 451' to emphasize several concepts. See the dramatic irony involving the firemen, verbal irony surrounding Mildred, and situational irony describing Montag's character change. Updated: 12/08/2021

What is Irony?

Until his death in 2010, Britain's largest dog was a Great Dane measuring 7'3'' tall on his hind legs and weighing 238 pounds. He was named 'Tiny.' Tiny's name is a real-life example of irony. Irony is when the opposite of the expected happens. Authors frequently use irony to make a point. Let's look at examples of three types of irony in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

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  • 0:02 What Is Irony?
  • 0:30 Dramatic Irony with Firemen
  • 1:25 Verbal Irony with Mildred
  • 2:09 Situational Irony with…
  • 2:57 Lesson Summary
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Dramatic Irony with Firemen

When we think of firemen in our world, we think of heroes. Firemen risk their lives to protect their communities during car crashes, floods, and fires. Things are different in Montag's world. In his dystopian community, people are afraid of firemen because firemen are the ones that set fires to the homes of rule breakers. When Montag meets his teenage neighbor, Clarisse, she asks, 'Is it true that long ago firemen put fires out instead of going to start them?. . .I heard once that a long time ago houses used to burn by accident and they needed firemen to stop the flames.'

Montag just laughs at her because he comes from a long line of firemen. According to his teaching, houses have been fireproof since Benjamin Franklin opened the first fire station to censor British books. This is an example of dramatic irony because the audience is aware of the truth when the character isn't. Clarisse is right, but Montag finds her theories laughable.

Verbal Irony with Mildred

Montag's wife, Mildred, who is a cold and frivolous woman, refers to the characters in her television show as her family. When Montag comes to her upset about having to kill the woman with her books the night before, Millie has no time or sympathy for her husband. When she finds out that Montag has been hiding books in their home, all she thinks about is losing her television entertainment. '. . . if Captain Beatty knew about those books - He might come and burn the house and the `family.' That's awful!'

In an example of verbal irony, Montag sarcastically asks her, 'Does your `family' love you, love you very much, love you with all their heart and soul, Millie?' Verbal irony is when a character knowingly says something that means something else for the purpose of making a point.

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