Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Situational Irony

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
English

Imagine you are reading a book, and the entire time you expect the main character to marry her best friend. All the signs are pointing to it, she is in love with him, he is in love with her, and their romance is the only thing the other characters are talking about. But then, in the scene with the wedding, she professes her love for his brother! This is a drastically different turn of events than what you were expecting. This is situational irony.

Situational Irony, Hook, StudySmarterSituational irony is when you ask yourself: "They did what?" Flaticon.

Situational Irony: Definition

We hear the word irony a lot in life. People often call things “ironic,” but in literature, there are actually different types of irony. Situational irony is one of these types, and it occurs when something very unexpected happens in a story.

Situational irony: when someone expects one thing to happen, but something completely different happens.

Situational Irony: Examples

There are a lot of examples of situational irony in famous works of literature.

There is situational irony in Lois Lowry’s novel, The Giver (1993).

The Giver is set in a dystopian community where everything is done according to a strict set of rules. People rarely make mistakes or break the rules, and when they do, they are punished. It is particularly rare for the elders who run the community to break the rules. But, during the Ceremony of the Twelve, an annual ceremony during which twelve-year-olds are assigned jobs, the elders skip the main character Jonas. This confuses the reader, Jonas, and all of the characters, because it is not at all what anyone was expecting. Something happened that was completely different than what was expected, making this an example of situational irony.

There is situational irony in Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960).

In this story, the children Scout and Jem are scared of the neighborhood recluse, Boo Radley. They have heard negative gossip about Boo, and they are scared of the Radley house. In Chapter 6, Jem’s pants get stuck in the Radley’s fence, and he leaves them there. Later, Jem goes back to get them and finds them folded over the fence with stitches in them, suggesting that someone fixed them up for him. At this point in the story, the characters and the reader do not expect Radley to be kind and compassionate, making this a case of situational irony.

There is situational irony in Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 (1953).

In this story, firemen are people who set books on fire. This is situational irony because readers expect firemen to be people who put out fires, not people who set them. By drawing this contrast between what the reader expects and what actually happens, the reader better understands the dystopian world the book is set in.

Situational Irony, Fireman Example, StudySmarterFiremen setting fires is an example of situational irony, Flaticon.

Purpose of Situational Irony

The purpose of situational irony is to create the unexpected in a story.

Having the unexpected happen can help a writer create multi-dimensional characters, change tones, develop themes and genre, and show the reader that appearance does not always match reality.

Harper Lee could have shown readers that Boo Radley is actually nice through narration or dialogue, but she used situational irony instead. The situational irony takes readers by surprise and prompts them to reflect on the complexity of Boo as a character.

Situational irony makes Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet (1597), a tragedy.

Romeo and Juliet love each other, and this gives the audience hope that they will be able to be together by the end of the play. But, when Romeo sees Juliet under the influence of a potion that makes her appear dead, he kills himself. When Juliet wakes up and finds Romeo is dead, she kills herself. This is a drastically different outcome than the "happily ever after" ending that you may hope to find in a romance, making Romeo and Juliet's love story a tragedy. Situational irony allows Shakespeare to portray the tragic, complex nature of love. This is also an example of dramatic irony because, unlike Romeo, the reader is aware that Juliet is not really dead.

Effects of Situational Irony

Situational irony has many effects on a text and the reading experience, as it influences the reader's engagement, understanding, and expectations.

Situational Irony and the Reader's Engagement

The main effect of situational irony is that it surprises the reader. This surprise can keep the reader engaged in a text and encourage them to read on.

Recall the example above about the character who professes her love to her fiancé's brother. This situational irony makes for a shocking plot twist to make the reader want to find out what happens next.

Situational Irony and the Reader's Understanding

Situational irony can also help readers better understand a theme or character in a text.

The way Boo mended Jem’s pants in To Kill a Mockingbird shows readers that Boo is nicer than they expected. The shock that Boo is a kind person, unlike the dangerous, mean person that the townspeople think he is, makes readers reflect on the practice of judging people based on what they hear about them. Learning not to judge people is a critical lesson in the book. Situational irony helps convey this important message effectively.

Situational Irony and the Reader's Understanding

Situational irony also reminds the reader that things do not always go the way you are expecting them to in life. Not only that, it makes the point that appearance does not always match up with reality.

Recall the example of situational irony from Lois Lowry’s book, The Giver. Since everything seems to run so smoothly in Jonas’ community, the reader does not expect anything out of the ordinary to happen at the Ceremony of the Twelve. When it does, the reader is reminded that, no matter what you think about a situation, there is no guarantee that things will happen the way you expect them to go.

Difference between Situational Irony, Dramatic Irony, and Verbal Irony

Situational irony is one of three types of irony we find in literature. The other types of irony are dramatic irony and verbal irony. Each type serves a different purpose.

Type of Irony

Definition

Example

Situational Irony

When we expect one thing but something different happens.

A lifeguard drowns.

Dramatic Irony

When the reader knows something that a character does not.

The reader knows a character is cheating on her husband, but the husband does not.

Verbal Irony

When a speaker says one thing but means another.

A character says: “What great luck we're having!” when everything is going wrong.

If you have to identify what type of irony is present in a passage, you can ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Do you know something the characters do not? If you do, this is dramatic irony.
  2. Did something totally unexpected happen? If it did, this is situational irony.
  3. Is a character saying one thing when they actually mean another? If they are, this is verbal irony.

Situational Irony - Key takeaways

  • Situational irony is when the reader is expecting something, but something completely different happens.
  • Situational irony surprises readers and helps them understand characters and themes.
  • Situational irony is different from dramatic irony because dramatic irony is when the reader knows something the character does not.
  • Situational irony is different than verbal irony because verbal irony is when someone says something that is the opposite of what they mean.

Situational Irony

Situational irony is when the reader is expecting something but something completely different happens. 

An example of situational irony is in Ray Bradbury’s book Fahrenheit 451  where the firemen start fires insteade of putting them out. 

Situational irony surprises readers and helps readers better understand characters and themes.  

Writers use situational irony to create multi-dimensional characters, change tones, develop themes and genre, and show the reader that appearance does not always match reality

Situational irony is when the reader is expecting something but something different happens. 

Final Situational Irony Quiz

Question

What is the definition of situational irony?

Show answer

Answer

Situational irony is when the reader is expecting something, but something completely different happens. 

Show question

Question

Is this situational irony, dramatic irony, or verbal irony? The reader knows that Henry loves Martha but Martha does not know.

Show answer

Answer

Dramatic Irony

Show question

Question

Is this situational irony, dramatic irony, or verbal irony? A character says: “What beautiful weather we are having” during a tornado.

Show answer

Answer

Verbal Irony

Show question

Question

Is this situational irony, dramatic irony, or verbal irony? A character spends her whole life trying to be a doctor but becomes a chef.

 

Show answer

Answer

Situational Irony

Show question

Question

Which of the following is situational irony?


Show answer

Answer

A librarian can't read. 

Show question

Question

Is this situational irony? The reader knows that a character is about to die but the character does not know. 


Show answer

Answer

No. Situational irony occurs when the reader expects one thing but something else happens. Here the reader knows something the character does not so this is dramatic irony. 

Show question

Question

Is this situational irony? A character spends many chapters planning to move to Japan but impulsively moves to France. 


Show answer

Answer

Yes. This is situational irony because the reader expected one thing but something drastically different occurred. 

Show question

Question

True or False. Situational irony is when the reader is aware of a situation and the main character is not


Show answer

Answer

False. This is the definition of dramatic irony. 

Show question

Question

True or False: Situational irony is when the reader expects one thing to happen but something else happens. 


Show answer

Answer

True. 

Show question

Question

Which of the following is an effect of situational irony?

Show answer

Answer

It surprises the reader. 

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Situational Irony quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.