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Situational Irony Definition: the difference between what is expected to happen in a story or play, and what actually occurs

Situational Irony

Situational irony is probably the most common type of irony a reader will come across in literature. Authors use situational irony to surprise, intrigue, and engage their audience. When the reader expects something to happen, but something else occurs, the reader can then reflect on decisions, motivations, and relationships of the characters and events that have taken place in the story. Most people are familiar with a “plot twist” in a story; this is typically when the author employs situational irony. For example, in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, situational irony occurs when it is revealed that Miss Havisham is not Pip’s benefactor after all, even though she has led him and the reader to believe that she is. Instead, Pip discovers that his benefactor is his convict, who has no station or property and is a fugitive in England. This plot twist surprises not only Pip, but the reader as well, and it leads to a new adventure for Pip at the end of the novel. This type of irony differs from dramatic irony in that both the audience and the characters are not aware of the truth that is revealed in the plot.

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Situational Irony Examples in Literature



Be sure to check out our article, Three Types of Irony!

Learn more about various devices in literature in our Picture Encyclopedia of Literary Elements!
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