(for Mary G., who understood irony and so much else)
A Poem in the Form of a Dialogue between Teacher and Students
Teacher: "Robert Frost's 'Mending Wall'
Has an excellent example of the use of irony.
Since you've all read it for homework
Where is the irony in the poem?"
Student: "In the title?"
T: "Good guess, but no. Keep trying."
T: "Any other ideas?"
T: "What about the neighbor's statement, 'Good fences make
Good neighbors?' "
S: "That's not ironic; it's true."
T: "Do you think Frost believed that it was true?"
S: "Can we ask him?"
T: "No; hes dead."
T: "Yes, well, it happens to the best of us. Now, what if I told you that he believed the opposite?"
S: "That good fences make bad neighbors?"
T: "Yes, something like that."
S: "That's not true--our neighbor has a dog that digs up our flowers and pees all over the lawn. My parents have asked them to put up a good fence to keep the dog out. They won't, so aren't they bad neighbors?"
T: "Sounds like it."
S: "So: no fences make bad neighbors. Good fences would make good neighbors where there's an untrained dog involved."
S: "So what was irony again?"
T: "Let's try that another day. I've had too much fun today."
S: "You always say that. Do you mean it?"
T: "Oh, yes." With all my heart.
(Based on a number of dialogues with students over the years)