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Literary Devices in To Kill a Mockingbird: Allusions & Irony

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  • 0:01 Why Use Literary Devices?
  • 0:20 Irony in To Kill a Mockingbird
  • 2:16 Allusions in To Kill a…
  • 3:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Hays

Jenny has taught college English and has a Mater's degree in English and another Master's degree in Secondary Education.

This lesson will provide a literary definition of both allusions and irony. In addition, we'll explore a few examples of allusions and irony from Harper Lee's novel 'To Kill a Mockingbird.'

Why Use Literary Devices?

We all love to read a great story, but wouldn't it be boring if the author simply wrote the novel without the use of interesting language? Authors use figurative language to make connections with the reader and to paint images in their mind. There are many types of figurative language, but today we are going to focus on irony and allusion.

Irony in To Kill a Mockingbird

Authors just love to use irony in their literature. Irony is when the opposite of what we expect to happen occurs. There are three types of irony: verbal, dramatic, and situational.

Verbal irony occurs when characters say one thing, but there is really another meaning to their words. Dramatic irony happens when the reader understands a situation, and the character does not. How many times have we been watching a scary movie and the teenager walks into the basement for a soda? We just know she is going to meet our killer, yet the character is blissfully ignorant. The reader has inside information. Finally, situational irony happens when the author creates a situation where the opposite outcome happens from what we expect.

There are quite a few examples of Lee's use of irony in To Kill a Mockingbird. For example, it is ironic that the people who are looked down upon in their small town are often the ones with the greatest moral character. This is an example of dramatic irony. For example, Boo is considered to be a disgrace and a freak in Maycomb. However, in the end, he saves the children from almost certain disaster.

An example of verbal irony is Miss Gates, Scout's teacher, talking to her class about the United States being a democracy. She states, 'That's the difference between America and Germany. We are a democracy and Germany is a dictatorship.' Yet, Miss Gates does not see the irony in the fact that an innocent man is being persecuted. Miss Gates continues, 'Over here we don't believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced. Pre-ju-dice,' Miss Gates just does not seem to understand the disconnect between her belief about the United States and the unfair treatment of African Americans in her community.

Allusions in To Kill a Mockingbird

Okay, so now that you understand irony, let's explore allusions.

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