The end of the Age of Irony in America

Most people would like to think of irony in terms of its humorous context, however that definition died after the fatal events of September 11, 2001. A classic example of humorous irony would be Scott expressing his dislike of Nancy to his best friend and then later being paired up with Nancy for science class. The components of this example are broken into simple parts; “Scott expressing dislike of Nancy” is the expression and then “being paired up with Nancy” is the opposite occurrence of the meaning. The actual definition of irony is “the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning.”[1] Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair said a few days after the terrorist attacks, “I think it’s the end of the Age of Irony.” In all fairness, it’s hard to disagree with Mr. Carter after the horrible events on 9/11.

Have you ever thought why did the terrorists plan to attack on that day? Have you ever taken a closer look at the date? 9/11 with just the numbers is 911, which is the national emergency phone number that people call in the U.S. when there is an emergency situation. The irony in that is the terrorists planning the attacks on that date was mocking the United States.

Another example of irony that faded after the attacks of 9/11 was the typical stereotype at the time that America was a global force. Everyone felt safe because America was on top of things – until 9/11. Those terrorist attacks showed the world that America was not invincible and that America isn’t so high and mighty. It completely shattered the global image and expectation of the United States. For any American, to think of 9/11 as being the final ironic event in the “Age of Irony” is an outrage. This was the most tragic event in the history of the United States.

In terms of specific irony, this would be defined as an example of dramatic irony. The definition of dramatic irony is “irony that is inherent in speeches or a situation of a drama and is understood by the audience but not by the characters in the play.”[2] Although this type of irony usually applies to actually theatre during a plot, it can also be applied to the stereotype about America in the last paragraph. The rest of the world is the audience that witnessed the attacks of 9/11 while America is just the character that doesn’t understand the irony because they were the victims of the attacks. Not to say that all of America is completely ignorant but it’s hard to be aware of a term such as “irony” after such a traumatizing event.

Although Graydon Carter announced the end of the “Age of Irony” after the attacks on 9/11, it’s hard to see why one terrible event in the history of one nation causes the end of irony. There have been numerous events that have been traumatic and to say it’s the end of the age of irony is a huge overreaction. It would just be better to say it was the end of the “Age of Irony” – only for the United States.


[1] “Irony.” Dictionary.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2012.
<http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/irony&gt;.

[2] “Dramatic irony.” Dictionary.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2012.
<http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dramatic+irony&gt;.

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