Examples of Irony in Life of Pi: Situational, Verbal, & Dramatic

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will examine the three types of irony: verbal, situational, and dramatic irony, from Yann Martel's ''Life of Pi,'' in which Pi survives 227 days at sea in a lifeboat with a tiger.


In 'The Little Mermaid,' Ariel sacrifices her voice to Ursula in exchange for transforming her from a mermaid to a person with legs so that she can win Prince Eric's heart. What Ariel does not know is that Eric has fallen in love with her voice. This is one of many examples of irony from this film. Yann Martel also uses irony in Life of Pi to tell the story of Pi, a young boy who is the sole survivor of a sinking ship other than Richard Parker, a Bengal tiger. Let's examine some examples of verbal, situational, and dramatic irony from this novel.

Verbal Irony

Verbal irony is when a character says the opposite of what he means, often in a way that comes across as sardonic. When Pi describes living in the lifeboat with Richard Parker, the tiger, and a hyena, he notices 'that the lifeboat was designed to accommodate a maximum of thirty-two people. Wouldn't that have been merry, sharing it with so many? Instead we were three and it was awfully crowded.' Pi is being sarcastic that the lifeboat could have accommodated more because he is feeling like he doesn't have enough room as it is.

Situational Irony

Situational irony is when events do not turn out as you would expect for them to. Of all of the terrifying things that Pi faces, the most chilling is sharing a lifeboat with a tiger. Although Pi lives in constant fear of Richard Parker for the duration of the 227 days at sea, he is surprised to discover, 'It was Richard Parker who calmed me down. It is the irony of this story that the one who scared me witless to start with was the very same who brought me peace, purpose, I dare say even wholeness.' This is situational because you would not expect that the thing that causes the most fear would also be calming.

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