Situational irony is an extremely common literary device that plays a critical role throughout a variety of stories. It not only creates suspense but surprises the reader as well. This can be shown through the three short stories entitled, “The Possibility of Evil”, “Just Lather, That’s All” and “The Skating Party”. It is critical that situational irony be used for effect in Shirley Jacksons’, “The Possibility of Evil”. The short story, “The Possibility of Evil” is an excellent example of situational irony.
During the story, the reader expects Miss Strangeworths’ letters to go through the mail and be delivered to her victims. The young Harris boy finds one of the letters on the ground and says, “She dropped a letter addressed to Don Crane. Might as well take it to him” (Jackson, 228). Miss Strangeworth accidentally drops one of her letters. Mr. Crane receives the letter and is told by the Harris boy that it is from Miss Strangeworth. Due to the context of the letter, the reader expects Miss Strangeworth to be confronted by Mr. Crane, but that is not the case.
Shirley Jackson states, “She began to cry silently for the wickedness of the world when she read the words: look out at what used to be your roses” (228). Surprisingly, an anonymous note was addressed to Miss Strangeworth. It was left with her mail, telling her about the destruction of her roses. Situational irony is shown in a multitude of examples throughout “The Possibility of Evil”, but it is not the only story that displays this literary device. Quite a few examples of situational irony can be demonstrated in “Just Lather, That’s All” by Hernando Tellez.
While reading this short story, the reader anticipates that Torres (the military man) will be killed by the barber. The barber ponders, “And how easy it would be to kill him. And he deserves it. Doesn’t he? ” (Tellez, 50). Although the barber had serious thoughts about killing Torres, he never actually did. Throughout the story, Torres seems oblivious to the thoughts flowing through the barbers head. Torres says to the barber, “They told me you’d kill me. I came to find out. ” (Tellez, 51). Torres however did have some suspicions about the barber, but the reader does not find this out until the very last line of the story.
Hernando Tellez was able to use situational irony to successfully surprise the reader. Merna Summers also uses situational irony in a similar way to add effect to “The Skating Party”. The short story entitled, “The Skating Party” demonstrates situational irony through many instances. At first it seems apparent that Uncle Nathan was in love with Eunice Lathem, his wife to be. Uncle Nathan’s niece narrates, “Nathan and Eunice were the most romantic of all. Nathan was handsome and Eunice was beautiful and they were very much in love” (Summers, 190).
This was a statement made to Uncle Nathan’s niece, by her mother. What her mother did not know was that Uncle Nathan was actually in love with Eunice’s sister, Delia. When Eunice and Delia fall through the ice, it seems as though Nathan grabs the first pair of hands he can feel. It does not appear as though he has a choice. Uncle Nathan states, “But I could see their hands on the edge of the ice, the one pair of arms had white fur around them. And I grabbed the other pair” (Summers, 199). Uncle Nathan did however have a choice.
He could see the different pairs of hands and he deliberately chose Delia’s. Through the whole of “The Skating Party” situational irony is illustrated in a variety of ways. Situational irony is the contrast between what happens, and what was expected to happen. There are many different ways in which it can be used for an effective twist in the plot. “The Possibility of Evil”, “Just Lather, That’s All” and “The Skating Party” have multiple examples showcasing situational irony. There is a variety of short stories that include situational irony, these, were just a few of the many examples.