20 Irony Examples: In Literature and Real Life (2023)

20 Irony Examples: In Literature and Real Life (1)

Irony occurs when what happens is the opposite from what is expected.

Writers use irony as a literary technique to add humor, create tension, include uncertainty, or form the central plot of a story.

We will be looking at the four types of irony (three common and one uncommon) and providing examples and tips to help you identify and use them in your work.


  1. Quick Reminder of What Irony Is
  2. Irony Examples in Literature
  3. Irony Examples in Real Life
  4. Which Scenario Is an Example of Irony?

Quick Reminder of What Irony Is

Irony is a rhetorical device in which the appearance of something is opposite to its reality.

There are four main types of irony: verbal irony, dramatic irony, situational irony, and Socratic irony. Socratic irony is not a literary device, and therefore we will not be looking at examples, but it is worth being aware of.

20 Irony Examples: In Literature and Real Life (2)

  • Verbal Irony is when a speaker says one thing but means something entirely different. The literal meaning is at odds with the intended meaning.
  • Dramatic Irony is when the audience knows something that the characters don’t.
  • Situational Irony is when what happens is the opposite of what you expect.
  • Socratic Irony is when a person feigns ignorance in order to get another to admit to knowing or doing something. It is named after Socrates, the Greek philosopher, who used this technique to tease information out of his students.

20 Irony Examples: In Literature and Real Life (3)

Irony Examples in Literature

Why is irony important to understand? Along with being a key rhetorical device, irony can also be very effective when used correctly in writing.

To demonstrate this fact we have selected ten examples of irony usage from popular literature. Warning: this list includes a few spoilers.

1) The main characters’ wishes in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz are a perfect example of situational irony.

The characters go on a quest to fulfill their hearts’ desires and instead of doing so they realize that they already had what they wanted all along. It is unexpected because the reader might assume that all of their desires will be gifted to the four main characters but, in the end, it’s unnecessary.

2) The conclusion between the two primary opponents in The Night Circus contains a large amount of situational irony.

The reader is led to expect that either Marco or Celia will win but, in the end, they both end up working together to keep their creation alive. The competition is not as black and white (pardon the pun) as it initially seems.

3) The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is full of verbal irony. A great example of this is when Dr Jekyll says “I am quite sure of him,” when referring to Mr Hyde.

(Video) TOP 20 Hilarious Examples Of Irony

This is verbal irony because the reader finds out that Hyde is actually Jekyll’s alter ego, so it would be expected that he knows himself well.

4) Shakespeare creates dramatic irony in the prologue of Romeo and Juliet through the line: “A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life.”

This well-known example is ironic because the reader knows from the very beginning that their romance will end in death, but they don’t yet know how.

20 Irony Examples: In Literature and Real Life (4)

5) Alice’s changing relationship with the Bandersnatch in Alice in Wonderland is situationally ironic.

When we first meet the Bandersnatch, he is ferocious and attempts to harm Alice. When Alice returns his eye, they become friends and the two work together to defeat the Jabberwocky. The audience expects to see an enemy but are instead presented with an ally.

6) George Orwell masters situational irony in Animal Farm through the animals’ endless and fruitless battle to obtain freedom.

All of the animals work together to escape the tyranny of the humans who own them. In doing so they end up under the even stricter rule of the pigs.

7) Roald Dahl’s short story A Lamb to a Slaughter is full of dramatic irony.

A housewife kills her husband with a frozen leg of lamb when he asks for a divorce. The police come looking for evidence and unknowingly dispose of it when they are fed the murder weapon for dinner.

8) The repeated line “May the odds be ever in your favor” in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games is verbally ironic.

Everyone from district 1 through 12 can be offered as a child sacrifice and has a 1/24 chance of surviving. Even if they do survive they are then delivered back under the control of the Capitol, so the odds are in nobody’s favor.

9) The disparity between children and adults in Roald Dahl’s Matilda is situationally ironic.

Most of the adults in Matilda’s life are hot-headed, uneducated, and unreasonable, while she as a six-year old is more mature than most of them. The traditional roles of child and adult are unexpectedly flipped on their heads.

10) The hit-and-run in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is situationally ironic.

Daisy Buchanan kills Myrtle when Myrtle runs in front of Gatsby’s car. It is ironic because Myrtle is Tom Buchanan’s mistress but Daisy does not know this. She unintentionally killed her husband's mistress.

(Video) Funny Examples Of Irony In Real Life

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Irony Examples in Real Life

Irony works so well in literature because it is so common in real life. Have you ever found yourself saying “well that’s ironic” to a situation in your life?

You could be talking about verbal, situational, or dramatic irony. Let’s take a look at a few everyday examples of each type.

11) When you find out that your pulmonologist (lung doctor) smokes.

This is situationally ironic because you’d expect this doctor of all people to avoid smoking because they understand all of the risks.

12) When someone falls over for the tenth time while ice-skating and says “I meant to do that.”

This person cannot be intending to fall over all the time but they are using verbal irony to make light of a possibly painful situation.

13) Your dog eats his certificate of dog-training obedience.

You would expect that in the process of having obtained an obedience certificate, the dog would also have learnt not to eat random objects. This is an example of situational irony.

14) The fire hydrant is on fire.

This is situationally ironic because the last thing that you would expect to be on fire is the object that is designed to fight fires. A similar example to this would be if a fire station were on fire.

15) A girl is teasing her friend for having mud on his face but she doesn’t know that she also has mud on her face.

From the point of view of the friend, this is an example of dramatic irony because he knows something that she does not.

(Video) 20 Hilarious Examples Of Irony

16) Your mom buys a non-stick pan but has to throw it away because the label is so sticky she cannot get it off.

You would predict that the pan was completely non-stick but are proven wrong at the first hurdle, which is situationally ironic.

17) When someone crashes into a “thank you for driving carefully'' sign.

The vision of a car crashed into the sign makes it clear that they did not drive carefully at all, which is situationally ironic.

18) Buying your English teacher a mug that reads “your the best teacher ever.”

The poor English teacher may feel like they have failed in their job in this situationally ironic situation where their student has bought them a mug with a grammar mistake.

19) When a child says “I want crisps now!” and the parent says: “Thank you so much for using your good manners.”

The child is being impolite and the parent is not actually congratulating the child on their manners in this example of verbal irony. They mean the exact opposite.

20) You can’t open your new scissors because you don’t have any scissors to cut through the plastic.

This example of situational irony is far too common. In buying scissors, it can be expected that you do not have any, so it is ironic that the packaging is designed for someone who already has a pair.

Which Scenario Is an Example of Irony?

Are you ready for a quick quiz to test your knowledge of irony? The test is split into the three types of irony.

Which of These Are Examples of Situational Irony?

20 Irony Examples: In Literature and Real Life (6)

1) A police station is robbed.

2) A child loses his rucksack after being told to take care not to lose it.

3) A person eats sweets while preaching about healthy eating

Only 1) and 3) are examples of situational irony. Sentence 2) is not a situational irony example because it could be expected that the child might lose the rucksack and that is why they were told to take care.

(Video) What are 3 irony examples?

It would, however, be ironic if he subsequently lost his “Most Organized in 2nd Grade” certificate five minutes after being awarded it.

Which of These Are Examples of Verbal Irony?

20 Irony Examples: In Literature and Real Life (7)

1) Saying “The weather is lovely today” while it is hailing.

2) “Wow that perfume is so lovely, did you bathe in it?”

3) Saying “Thank you so much for your help” after someone has crushed your new glasses while helping to look for them.

Only example 1) is verbally ironic, the other two are sarcastic comments.

Verbal irony and sarcasm are often confused but there is one big difference between them: verbal irony is when what you say is the opposite of what you mean while sarcasm is specifically meant to embarrass or insult someone.

Which of These Are Examples of Dramatic Irony?

20 Irony Examples: In Literature and Real Life (8)

1) A small ship without life boats is stuck in a monumental storm in the middle of the Atlantic.

2) Three characters are killed and a fourth seems to be going the same way.

3) A girl walks down the same alley we have just seen a known murderer walk down.

Only option 3) is an example of dramatic irony because the audience knows that the murderer is down the alley but the girl does not.

Although the other two examples are undeniably dramatic, there is no inherent irony because the audience has no more knowledge about what will happen than those involved.

Why Should You Use Irony in Your Writing?

Irony can be an effective tool to make a reader stop and think about what has just happened.

It can also emphasize a central theme or idea by adding an unexpected twist to the events of the story.

What brilliant examples of irony in literature have we missed? Share your favorites in the comments.

(Video) What is verbal irony? - Christopher Warner

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What is irony examples in everyday life? ›

In an ironic phrase, one thing is said, while another thing is meant. For example, if it were a cold, rainy gray day, you might say, “What a beautiful day!” Or, alternatively, if you were suffering from a bad bout of food poisoning, you might say, “Wow, I feel great today.”

What are some examples of irony from literature? ›

Shakespeare was excellent at weaving dramatic irony into his plays, and Romeo and Juliet is a classic example of dramatic irony. When Romeo poisons himself, thinking Juliet is dead, the audience knows the tragic reality that she is just drugged. This is also a form of tragic irony as the end result is heartbreak.

What are 3 dramatic irony examples? ›

Dramatic irony examples in literature
  • In Twelfth Night, a love triangle is predicated on Viola's false identity. ...
  • In Romeo and Juliet, the title characters commit suicide because they don't know about each other's plans.
  • In Othello, the title character is led to believe his wife cheated on him – but we know she didn't.
Jul 19, 2019

What is the greatest irony in life? ›

The greatest irony is that life only truly begins when we have something for which we are willing to die.

What is an example of irony in a story? ›

Romeo & Juliet contains one of the best-known examples of dramatic irony in literary history. At the end of the play, Juliet fakes her own death with the intention of running away with Romeo. The audience knows she's not really dead, but Romeo doesn't, so when he sees her, he thinks she's killed herself.

What is an example of irony in literature quotes? ›

“I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.” “From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent.” “I quote others only in order the better to express myself.” “I'd rather be partly great than entirely useless.”

What are dramatic irony 5 examples? ›

Dramatic Irony Examples in Literature: The Unforgettable Classics
  • Romeo and Juliet. In William Shakespeare's famous play, the audience knows that Juliet is asleep but at the same time, her suitor Romeo believes her to be dead. ...
  • MacBeth. ...
  • Othello. ...
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. ...
  • Oedipus Rex. ...
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Dec 17, 2022

What is irony in American literature? ›

Irony occurs when a moment of dialogue or plot contradicts the expectations of a character or audience. Irony happens when the opposite of what you'd expect actually occurs. Irony is a moment in which the opposite of what's expected actually occurs, a contrast between “what seems to be” and “what is.”

What are 2 examples of situational irony? ›

Situational irony is the irony of something happening that is very different to what was expected. Some everyday examples of situational irony are a fire station burning down, or someone posting on Twitter that social media is a waste of time.

What are some examples of irony in a sentence? ›

Example Sentences

She described her vacation with heavy irony as “an educational experience.” It was a tragic irony that he made himself sick by worrying so much about his health. That's just one of life's little ironies. The irony of the situation was apparent to everyone. He has a strong sense of irony.

What is the best example of verbal irony? ›

Verbal irony is a figure of speech in which the literal meaning of what someone is saying is different from what they really mean. For example, someone saying “Just what I needed”, after spilling coffee on their shirt on the way to an important meeting.

What is an example of situational irony in literature? ›

Situational Irony Definition Literature

In The Story of an Hour, Louise is told her husband is dead. But despite the morbid circumstance, and the fact Luise had no ill will towards her husband, she feels an overwhelming sense of joy. But when her husband returns alive, she suffers a heart attack and dies.

What is an example of tragic irony? ›

Tragic Irony Example:

A man takes a drink of tea — we know that is has been poisoned but he doesn't. We wait and watch for his inevitable and unfortunate death.

What are the four kinds of irony in literature? ›

What Are the Main Types of Irony?
  • Dramatic irony. Also known as tragic irony, this is when a writer lets their reader know something that a character does not. ...
  • Comic irony. This is when irony is used to comedic effect—such as in satire. ...
  • Situational irony. ...
  • Verbal irony.
Sep 3, 2021

What is irony in film and TV? ›

What is Irony in Films? Irony in film is a technique that writers of all kinds use, sometimes for laughs, to create an outcome that is contrary to what was, or might have been, expected. In movies and TV, these are lines given that directly contradict what we see on screen.

What is an example of irony in poetry? ›

Verbal irony: a statement in which the meaning that the speaker implies differs sharply from the meaning expressed. For example: When in “The World is Too Much With Us” William Wordsworth writes, “Great God! I'd rather be a Pagan suckled in a creed outworn,” he is using verbal irony.

Which is an example of irony from The Great Gatsby? ›

Tom Buchanan learns that his wife, Daisy, is having an affair, which is ironic given that he is also having an affair. Daisy is the driver of the vehicle that hits and kills Myrtle Wilson. This is ironic since Myrtle is the mistress of her husband. These are both examples of dramatic irony.

What is an example of dramatic irony in Scene 2? ›

When Romeo's friends can't find him, they assume he is mad about Rosaline when really he has fallen in love with a new girl. It's irony because we already know he is love with Juilet, but they think he is still mad about Rosaline.

What is a famous verbal irony? ›

These are a few famous examples: "But Brutus says he was ambitious; / And Brutus is an honourable man." Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare. Mark Antony appears to praise Brutus and the other assassins, while in reality he is condemning them.

What is an example of romantic irony? ›

An example of romantic irony occurs when a narrator or author signals their understanding of a poem, novel, or short story as a work of fiction. In Tristram Shandy, the narrator repetitively refers to the style in which he's writing and to the fact that he is composing a narrative that is fictional.

What is an example of dramatic irony in night? ›

One example is when the father says that the yellow stars they are being forced to wear aren't lethal. In fact, the stars are lethal because they identify Jews, which is the first step toward their mass genocide. Another example of irony in Night is when the families think that they are going on vacation.

What is an example of irony in a Disney movie? ›

Aladdin has the lamp with a genie inside it. Aladdin doesn't know there is a genie in it yet, but the audience does so that makes it dramatic irony. When Belle takes her fathers place as a prisoner in the beast's castle, so that makes it verbal irony.

What is the most common irony? ›

The three most common kinds you'll find in literature classrooms are verbal irony, dramatic irony, and situational irony. Verbal irony occurs whenever a speaker or narrator tells us something that differs from what they mean, what they intend, or what the situation requires.

What is simple irony? ›

Irony occurs when what actually happens turns out to be completely different from what would be expected. In writing or speaking, irony involves using words so the intended meaning is the opposite of the literal meaning.

What is the irony in Home Alone? ›

Two Examples Of Dramatic Irony

In the movie, Home Alone, the thieves were unaware that Kevin had set traps for them, but the audience knew about them.

What are the 4 main types of irony? ›

What Are the Main Types of Irony?
  • Dramatic irony. Also known as tragic irony, this is when a writer lets their reader know something that a character does not. ...
  • Comic irony. This is when irony is used to comedic effect—such as in satire. ...
  • Situational irony. ...
  • Verbal irony.
Sep 3, 2021

What is an example of irony in Harry Potter? ›

The dramatic irony in Harry Potter is when the troll goes into the girls' bathroom. Hermione doesn't know the troll is going is there, but Harry, Ron, and the audience do. When Ron takes away the troll's club, the club stays in mid air.

What is irony 5th grade? ›

Irony is about expectations and opposites. I teach students that there are three types of irony. Verbal irony is when a character or person says one thing but means the complete opposite. This is more commonly known as sarcasm. Dramatic irony is when a character believes something and the opposite is true.

What is the irony in two friends? ›

11. Irony: The friends want to go fishing to take some tension out of their current situation but in the end they end up getting shot and thrown overboard also releasing the tension of their lives by dying.

What is the irony in the diary of Anne Frank? ›

Dramatic Irony - occurs when the audience or the reader knows something a character does not know. - Anne Frank is a play with dramatic irony because we know that only Mr. Frank will survive the war, but the characters in The Secret Annex don't know their own fate.


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