Situational irony occurs when the expected outcome does not happen. This is also called an irony of events. The outcome can be serious or humorous.
Common Examples of Situational Irony
- A fire station burns down
- The marriage counselor files for divorce
- The police station gets robbed
- A fertility counselor has difficulty getting pregnant
- Posting on Facebook complaining how useless Facebook is
- A vegan never eats meat but has some sausage pizza because he is hungry
- The traffic cop got his license suspended because of unpaid parking tickets
- A pilot had a fear of heights
- A member of PETA wears leather shoes
- The teacher failed the test
- A man who needed of medical assistance is run over by the ambulance.
- An anti-technology website
- In the 1920s, the New York Times said solving crossword puzzles was a craze that would die out. Years later and even today, their crossword puzzle is well-known.
- Gunpowder was discovered in an attempt to find the elixir of immortality.
- The Consumer Product Safety Commission had lapel buttons made to promote toy safety. These were recalled for having lead paint, sharp edges and being a possible choking hazard.
- In the 1930s, the U.S. planted the Kudzu vine to stop soil erosion. Instead of preserving, it chokes trees and the plants it climbs on.
- Two people want a divorce and during the proceedings, discover they still love each other and remarry.
- A child runs away from someone throwing a water balloon at him and falls into the pool.
Situational Irony in Literature
- Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare - Romeo finds Juliet drugged and assumes she is dead. He kills himself then she awakens, see that he is dead and kills herself.
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury - This book is on the top 100 list of banned books in America.
- The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry - The wife cuts her long hair and sells it to have the money to buy her husband a pocket watch chain. He sells the watch to buy her a hair accessory.
- The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum - Dorothy travels to a far away land and, in the end, it was only a dream.
- In Greek mythology, Cronus learned that he would be overthrown by his children so he devoured any children Rhea, his wife, had. She tricked him with her child Zeus, giving his a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes. In the end, Zeus and his siblings overthrew Cronus.
- In another Greek tale, Oedipus killed his father and married his mother being unaware of the relationship. This was due to his being left to die by his father because of a prophecy.
- In Tartuffe by Moliere, Tartuffe cons his benefactor to get title to Orgon’s house. He goes to the house with a policeman to finalize the eviction order and he is arrested for being a crook.
- The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge - Water, water, every where, And all the boards did shrink ; Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink
Looking for more examples? Check out the YourDictionary articles Examples of Irony and Examples of Irony in History.