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Socratic Irony

Sometimes confronting a character in a story over something they did usually is not very interesting to the reader. In fact, if the writer is not careful, he or she may lose the reader's interest at this point. Why? Because through confrontation, the writer may have to explain a lot and therefore risk revealing so much to the reader and consequently releasing his audience from the tension and suspense he or she had built. Do we avoid scenes that involve confrontations in our narratives? Absolutely not! Is there a way we can do it better? Yes, there is. Ever heard of Socratic irony? Now we are not just going to look at how Socratic irony will help with confrontations, but we are going to look at everything about Socratic irony

The definition of Socratic irony

Socratic irony refers to the type of irony where one feigns the lack of knowledge about something so that they can expose another person’s ignorance of the same thing. This type of irony was named Socratic irony from Socrates’s habit or style of questioning and engaging people in conversations. The Greek philosopher faked his lack of knowledge about something so that the people he was talking to would confess their own lack of knowledge about the same to him.

Examples of instances of Socratic irony

Let’s take a look at some instances or situations in which Socratic irony has been used.

(Example one)

George’s parents leave for a short trip to the coast over the weekend. George’s parents leave him at home alone with a firm instruction that he should not hold a party at the house while they are away. Just after his parents had left, George invites his friends over, and they party till morning. When George’s parents arrive back from their trip, they ask George about his weekend. Unbeknownst to George, their neighbor had called George's dad on the phone, complaining about the loud music coming from George’s house. George’s parents ask him why the house seems so disorganized and George is forced to confess that he held a party while they were away.

Socratic irony is in George’s parents asking their son why the house seems so disorganized when they already know their son threw a party at their house.

(Example two)

A smuggler always meets with a link at the border to collect his smuggled packages. His business accomplices are the people who choose the links they’ll use to deliver the packages. When he goes to collect his package, he is surprised to find out that his link on that day is a border police officer. Because both of them are now in the smuggling business, the smuggler decides to greet the police officer with the words, “I thought smuggling is an illegal business, and the police do not engage in illegal business.”

This example shows how writers can use Socratic irony humorously. It is ironic for a police officer to be in the smuggling business. Socratic irony comes in where the smuggler asks the police officer about dealing in the smuggling business.

The use of Socratic irony

Socratic irony is used to add humor to a narrative and also educate the audience on a particular subject.


Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Keith Mbuya