According to professor Galperin I.R., irony is a stylistic device based on the simultaneous realisation of two logical meanings- dictionary and contextual, but the two meanings stand in opposition to each other.12
According to Professor Kukharenko V.A., irony is a stylistic device in which the contextual evaluative meaning of a word is directly opposite to its dictionary meaning.13 So, like many other stylistic devices, irony does not exist outside the context. Irony must not be confused with humour, although they have very much in common. Humour always causes laughter. What is funny must come as a sudden clashof the positive and the negative. In this respect irony can be likened to humour. But the function of irony is not confined to producing a humorous effect. In a sentence like that: "How clever you are, Mr.Hopper" (p.43), where due to the intonation pattern, the word "clever" conveys a sense opposite to its literal signification. The irony does not cause a ludicrous effect. It rather expresses a feeling of irritation and displeasure. Here are some examples of irony:
e.g. "Oh, I love London Society! I think it has immensely
improved. It is entirely composed now of beautiful
idiots and brilliant lunatics. Just what Society
should be." (p.175)
"And in England a man who can't talk morality
twice a week to a large, popular, immoral
audience is quite over as a serious politician."
"All women become like their mothers. That is
their tragedy. No man does. That is his." (p.300)
These examples show that irony is a mode of speech in which the opposite of what is said is meant. The speaker of the first example, Mabel Chiltern does not really think that it is good for London Society to consist of "beautiful idiots and brilliant lunatics". Wilde's method of ironical usage is mostly direct: he speaks of the decomposition of people, their ideals and values. The effect of irony lies in the striking disparity between what is said and what is meant. This is achieved through the intentional interplay of two meanings, which are in opposition to each other.
e.g. "No woman should have a memory. Memory in a
woman is a beginning of dowdiness". (p.144)
"My father told me to go to bed an hour ago. I
don't see why I shouldn't give you the same
advice. I always pass on good advice. It is the
only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to
"I knew we should come to an amicable
The context is one most important things when we use irony. The word "advice" is suggested for acceptance if it is good and for rejection if it is not good, but not for passing on it. In fact, Lord Goring, the speaker of this phrase, is a serious person, who knows that a good advice may be very useful. As for the last example, here the word "amicable" is contrary to the word "blackmail" with the help of which this agreement was achieved by Mrs. Chevely. Mrs. Chevely is an "immoralist" of English Society.
e.g. "People are either hunting for husbands or hiding
from them" (p.181)
"Oh, I like tedious, practical subjects. What I don't
like are tedious, practical people." (p.189)
The remarks of this "Lady" characterise her brilliantly. We can clearly see a scheming woman, an adventurer, who stops at nothing in gaining her filthy aims. She does not show her real face, she always disguises it. But her cynical remarks betray her. Another example of irony used by O.Wilde:
e.g. "Lord Goring: I adore political parties. They are
the only place left to us where people do not talk
The members of political parties must talk politics, it is their duty. They must be very serious and honest people and they must work for people's well being, but instead of it they do not do anything for people. During their political parties they pronounce some absurd, cynical words and discuss rumours and gossips.
e.g. "Oh, we all want friends at times" (p.25)
Lord Darlington, saying this phrase, hides his love for Lady Windermere behind the word "friend", but she does not accept his version of "friendship" in such kind and does not want to be with him. Oscar Wilde considers the word "friend" to have different meaning: people always need friends, not only for temporary period of time. The meaning of this word conveys a constant quality.
The specific, cynical quality of Wilde's irony is manifested in his manner of writing. This device allows Wilde to reveal incongruity of the world around him and to show the viciousness of the upper - class society.
Pun is the next stylistic device used by Oscar Wilde in his plays.
According to Professor Sosnovskaya V.B., pun (paronomasia, a play on words) is a figure of speech emerging as an effect created by words similar or identical in their sound form and contrastive or incompatible in meaning.13
According to Prof. Galperin I.R., the pun is a stylistic device based on the interaction of two well-known meanings of a word or phrase. It is difficult to draw a hard and fast distinction between zeugma and the pun. The reliable distinguishing feature is a structural one: zeugma is the realisation of two meanings with the help of the verb which is made to refer to different subjects or objects. The pun is more independent. There need not necessarily be a word in the sentence to which the pun-word refers. This does not mean. However, that the pun is entirely free. Like any other stylistic device, it must depend on a context. But the context may be of a more expanded character, sometimes even as large as a whole work of emotive prose.14
Thus, the title of one of Oscar Wilde's plays, "The Importance of Being Earnest", has a pun in it. But in order to understand this pun we must read the whole play, because the name of the hero and the adjective meaning "seriously-minded" are both existing in our mind.
Pun is based on the effect of deceived expectation, because unpredictability in it is expressed either in the appearance of the elements of the text unusual for the reader or in the unexpected reaction of the addressee of the dialogue.
However playful is the effect of pun, however intricate and sudden is the merging of senses in one sound complex, in a truly talented work this unit of poetic speech shares equally with others in the expression of the author's message. It is a vehicle of the author's thought not a mere decoration. Pun is one of the most favoured devices of Oscar Wilde. In his comedies there are about twenty examples of pun. In this Chapter we will try