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It is sometimes called an irony of events because the outcome can be serious or humorous, but it is always unexpected. It’s an interesting scenario that allows one to think thoroughly. The purpose of ironic situations is to allow the readers to make a distinction between appearances and realities and eventually associate them with the theme of a story.
Imagine how ironic it would be for a teacher to fail a test. While everyone would expect one thing to happen, the outcome says otherwise. This creates an element of surprise and shock, as the situation contradicts what has been expected from it.
Dr. Katherine L. Turner characterizes situational irony as “a long con––a ruse taking place over time. Participants and onlookers do not recognize the irony because its revelation comes at a later moment in time, the unexpected ‘twist.’ In situational irony, the anticipated outcome contrasts with the end result” (This Is the Sound of Irony, 2015).
In literature, this form of irony is commonly used to emphasize important scenes and to make unusual images more vivid. Usually, writers use strong word associations with this form of irony and add variation, fresh thoughts, and adornment to their literary pieces. Situational irony also ranges in usage from the most comic situations to the most tragic. Sometimes, situational ironies occur just because people perceive certain events to be odd and unfair.
For instance, if a competition of executives is called and Bill Gates, the president of Microsoft entered, he would be cheered on by supporters to win. What if after the final draw he is announced the winner and the prize given to him is a computer system from Microsoft? To many people, such a prize would be ironic because they believe strongly that Bill Gates does not need to compete for Microsoft-made computers.
– There’s a fire inside the fire station.
– Traffic is congested on one side of town. How can that happen when a traffic enforcer is there to direct motorists?
– A robber steals valuables from a police station.
– Someone complains about the amount of time people spend on social media through a Facebook post.
– An ambulance runs over a guy crossing the street.
Examples of Situational Irony in Literature:
- In “The Gift of the Magi,” by O. Henry, the husband sells his watch to buy his wife combs for her hair and the wife sells her hair to buy her husband a chain for his watch.
- In the Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge, the men are surrounded by an ocean of water, but they are dying of thirst.
- “The Story of an Hour,” by Kate Chopin tells of a wife who learns that her husband is dead. She feels a sense of freedom as she thinks about a life without restriction. Then, he returns and she dies of shock.
- In “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant, a woman borrows what she thinks is a costly necklace from a friend and loses it. She and her husband sacrifice to replace it, only to learn years later that the necklace was a fake.
Situational Irony Worksheets
This bundle contains 10 ready-to-use Situational Irony worksheets that are perfect to test student knowledge and understanding of Situational Irony which occurs when actions or events have the opposite result from what is expected or what is intended.
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Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.