Situational Irony

Situational irony occurs when the final outcome is contradictory to what was expected. Usually, the episodes in the plot of a story will lead the audience to expect a particular resolution or ending. If such an expected outcome fails and instead another contrary outcome occurs, the absurdity is termed situational irony. Such a form of irony is the result a discrepancy in perspective, such that what is known and expected at one moment differs with what is known later on. Some might only consider situational irony to be ironic rarely if at all. Rather, in most cases, it seems more like coincidence.

Simple Examples of Situational Irony

If two couples who are known to have irreconcilable differences move to court to conclude their divorce, people would expect nothing less. If by a twist the couples suddenly discover a bond of love during court proceedings and decide to remarry instead, that would be called situational irony.

Two young men leave for a volleyball game at the stadium on a Saturday afternoon. They are carrying a fixture indicating that there would be a volleyball match and are confident of watching their team win. On arriving at the stadium, they instead find a spectacular soccer match on course and learn that the volleyball game would be played on Sunday afternoon. That would be a disappointing situational irony.

A woman has been saving painfully to buy a golden watch. Just hours after buying the watch, her daughter arrives home with the same watch as a gift for her!

A man branches from the main road to avoid being hit by a speeding car and is suddenly hit by a truck!

Examples of Situational Irony 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.

The comical use of this form of irony will usually create unexpected reversal in the plot for the better. In Tartuffe by Moliere, the climactic moment in marked by a successful conning of Orgon, Tartuffe’s benefactor, to title his property in Tartuffe’s name. Tartuffe goes to Orgon’s house together with an officer to finalize the eviction order on Orgon’s family, and sharply, it turns out that he is arrested and driven to jail as a crook. The king had by a careful review of cases presented at the royal court discovered Tartuffe’s criminal activity. The readers and audience are met by a surprising situational irony.

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 is 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.

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