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Situational Irony Vs Dramatic Irony in the Stories ‘Sweat’ by Zora Neale Hurston and 'A Rose for Emily’ by William Faulkner

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In the short story ‘Sweat’ by Zora Neale Hurston, the main character Delia is a hardworking woman who does tremendous manual labor as a washerwoman for white folks. Delia has been in an abusive marriage with her husband Sykes for fifteen years, and he enjoys treating her the way that he does. Sykes doesn’t like that Delia works for white people. Sykes decides to play a trick on Delia by using her fear of snakes. He decides to get a mistress, Bertha. However, Sykes tries to kill Delia by hiding a snake in her hamper but he gets bitten by the snake instead and dies.

This story presents an example of situational irony. Situational irony is when the events or actions have an opposite outcome from what we expected to occur. Throughout the story, Sykes shows no respect or courtesy towards Delia. He is frightened by the work that Delia’s does. One day, Sykes gets a rattlesnake and brings it into their home to terrorize Delia. Sykes is trying to get rid of Delia so he can have the house for him and his mistress. Delia’s tolerance for Sykes’ actions becomes limited as she does not allow his actions to cause a reaction.

“Oh well, whatever goes over the Devil’s back, is got to come under his belly. Sometime or ruther, Sykes, like everybody else, is gointer reap his sowing”. After that she was able to build a spiritual earthwork against her husband. His shells could no longer reach her.

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Delia believes there’s going to be payback for what Sykes has done to her. Sykes will be penalized for his wrongs. Delia is protecting herself from the harm that she is receiving. Delia continuously stands up for herself. One day, after church Delia goes home to do the laundry where she finds the snake on the hamper, she takes off to the barn. When Sykes returns home, he hears the snake. “Oh fuh de light! Ah thought he’d be too sick”. Sykes gets bitten by the snake that he planned Delia’s murder with. Ironically, Sykes’s plan was to use the snake to kill Delia but instead kills himself.

In the short story ‘A Rose for Emily’ by William Faulkner, the story is broken down into five sections. In the first section, the townspeople are attending Miss Emily’s funeral at her home. Also, there is a new town leader who takes over and tries to make Miss Emily pay her taxes. In the second section, the time goes back thirty years and Miss Emily has an odor coming from her house. Her father had just died and the townspeople complain about the odor. The mayor sends somebody out to fix the problem. In section three, Miss Emily is suffering from an illness after her father’s death and the town hires a company to fix the sidewalks. Miss Emily meets homer and instantly falls in love. She goes to a drug store and buys arsenic and doesn’t provide the worker with an explanation and leaves the store. In section four, the townspeople are worried that Miss Emily will kill herself and they believe Homer isn’t the best fit for her. They get a minister to talk to her and her cousins arrive. Homer goes missing until Miss Emily’s cousin departs from the house. In section five, we are told what happens after Miss Emily dies. Everyone attends her funeral including her cousins. After the funeral, they decide to go upstairs and finds Homer dead body on the bed with a suit laid out next to the bed. The townspeople also find a strand of grey hair on the pillow beside his body.

The story presents an example of dramatic irony. Dramatic irony is when the reader knows what’s going on in a situation and the characters don’t. Once Miss Emily’s father dies, she seeks closeness with Homer Barron. Homer isn’t the type of man her father expected her to be with. Emily was a southerner and Homer was northerner which means Emily shouldn’t get as low to Homer’s level and be so in love with him. The townspeople looked at Miss Emily as “a tradition, a duty, and a care….”. Also, Homer wasn’t the marrying type because “he like men and it was known that he drank with younger men…”. In the story, Miss Emily is not aware that her relationship with Homer is something that wouldn’t work or be accepted by the townspeople or even her father.

I believe that situational irony is to be more effective. I say this because it leaves the reader in shock and not expected on what will happen. When dealing with situational irony there’s always a twist into what will happen. I feel this makes the reader want to keep reading, brings enjoyment, and even just keeping the reader engaged. By having irony, it helps keep the story moving along and allowing it to flow.

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Situational Irony Vs Dramatic Irony in the Stories ‘Sweat’ by Zora Neale Hurston and ‘A Rose for Emily’ by William Faulkner. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 30, 2023, from
“Situational Irony Vs Dramatic Irony in the Stories ‘Sweat’ by Zora Neale Hurston and ‘A Rose for Emily’ by William Faulkner.” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022,
Situational Irony Vs Dramatic Irony in the Stories ‘Sweat’ by Zora Neale Hurston and ‘A Rose for Emily’ by William Faulkner. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 Sept. 2023].
Situational Irony Vs Dramatic Irony in the Stories ‘Sweat’ by Zora Neale Hurston and ‘A Rose for Emily’ by William Faulkner [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 15 [cited 2023 Sept 30]. Available from:
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