What is Situational Irony in Literature?

Updated: June 09, 2023
Situational irony is when the actual outcome of a situation is different from what was expected.
Detailed answer:

Situational irony can be thought of as an unintentional reversal of events. It’s often used by authors as a plot device to create humor or suspense, but it can also be used to show how unpredictable life can be.

The phrase “situational irony” is used to describe a situation or event that seems to be ironic in nature but isn’t actually ironic. This usually occurs because the person making the judgment of irony doesn’t fully understand what’s happening or why it happened.

Situational irony involves a discrepancy between what is expected and what actually happens. This is different from dramatic irony, which is when the audience knows more than the characters in the story do.

When situational irony occurs, it causes readers to rethink their expectations. The following are examples of situational irony:

A character thinks they have all the answers, but they’re wrong.

A character expects one thing to happen, but something else happens instead.

A character expects bad things to happen to them, yet good things occur instead.

Sometimes, situational irony is used to highlight the foolishness of a character’s beliefs and actions.

It can be used to create suspense, tension, or surprise in a story. A good example of this would be when a character is talking about how much they love their job or how grateful they are for all the opportunities they’ve been given when something bad happens at work (e.g., getting laid off).

Cite this page

What is Situational Irony in Literature?. (2023, Jan 19). Retrieved from