Follow TV Tropes


Death By Irony / Literature

Go To

  • Similar to the beaver in the picture, an Iguanodon dies in The Lost World (1912) when it brings the tree where it was trying to feed over on itself.
  • In the Codex Alera, Chronic Backstabbing Disorder-afflicted bitch Invidia Aquitaine dies by... being stabbed in the back by an invisible opponent.
  • Invoked by one of the villains in The Dresden Files. In Dead Beat, Harry kills the Corpsetaker by shooting her in the back of the head. She returns as a ghost in Ghost Story, and gleefully points out the irony when she tries to kill Harry by shooting him in the back of the head. Since Harry himself was a ghost at the time, it didn't actually kill him, but it did destroy his spirit's physical manifestation, and at that point he was too weak to materialize himself again.
  • Advertisement:
  • In Eternity in Death, the killer, who thinks he's a vampire, attacks Dallas. In the struggle, he's stabbed by a wooden stake.
  • This is a recurring theme in The Reynard Cycle.
    • Torture Technician Ghul falls victim to his own poison in Reynard the Fox.
    • The Calvarians of The Baron of Maleperduys are defeated by an army of mercenaries who are paid with the gold that they were offering in exchange for Reynard.
    • In Defender of the Crown, Acteon is killed by a Chimera that he intended to kill the Queen with.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Viserys Targaeryn is obsessed with reclaiming his (golden) crown. Khal Drogo obliges by pouring molten gold onto his head.
    • At the end of A Storm of Swords, Lady Lysa's demise has all sorts of irony wound into it. In the first book, she'd tried to throw Tyrion out the Moon Door for a whole slew of crimes he didn't commit, including the murder of her first husband Jon. Later, she attempts to throw Sansa out the Door as well after catching her being kissed by Lysa's new husband Petyr, at which point it's revealed that Lysa was herself the one who killed Jon so she could be with her new man. And then Petyr throws her out the Moon Door.
    • Advertisement:
    • When Daenerys marches on Meereen, the Great Masters of the city taunt her by nailing a disemboweled slave child to every milepost, for a hundred and sixty-three miles. When Dany captures the city, though:
      Meereenese Noblewoman: How many must you have to spare us?
      Daenerys: One hundred and sixty-three.
    • At the beginning of A Game of Thrones Lord Eddard beheads a deserter of the Night´s Watch, who claims that the White Walkers are back, which the reader knows is the truth. At the end of the same book he gets beheaded for claiming that the royal children are in fact bastards born of incest, which the reader also knows is true.
    • Joffrey Baratheon dies in the same way as Robb Stark: both are betrayed while at a wedding, dying painfully as their mothers are forced to watch, and the corresponding Game of Thrones episodes "The Rains of Castamere" plays just before both are killed. For bonus points, Joffrey had a performance of dwarves put on to mock Robb's demise!
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy relates the story of a civilization whose world was doomed and decided to send everyone to safety in Arks... only that's a big fat lie they told to the "useless" members of society like the beauticians, telephone washers, etc. to get rid of them. Then the rest of the civilization dies when a disease spreads via dirty telephone receivers. As for the exiled Ark, it crash-lands on Earth; those useless people may or may not be, in fact, humanity's ancestors, which would explain an awful lot.
    • There's also the deaths of everyone involved in planning the demolition of Dent's house to construct a bypass. Dent himself wasn't informed of the plans until literally the day before, and he's then told that the plans for demolition have been available for the last nine the unlit basement of the planning office (a basement without any stairs leading to it,) locked in a filing cabinet in an unused bathroom who's door was labelled "Beware of the leopard." Later that day, the Vogons arrive and announce that the Earth is to be demolished to make way for an intergalactic bypass, and counter any complaints by telling humanity that the demolition plans have been available for the last 50 years...on Alpha Centauri.
  • In Malevil, rogue army commander Vilmain is killed by Maurice, one of his unwilling, "join or die" recruits, who puts the discipline and training Vilmain inflicted on him to good use.
  • In Suite Française, Charlie Langelet, a collector of fine porcelain, while making his way along roads full of refugees fleeing the fear of German bombing, reaches safety in his automobile by stealing gas from a pair of young lovers. Safely returned to Paris, he orders his cleaning woman to clean his entire apartment. When she protests that she can't do it in a single day, he replies that she'll just have to work faster. Before leaving the apartment, he puts his very favorite porcelain, a figurine of Venus, on display. He has arranged to have dinner with the beautiful dancer Arlette Corail; she said she'd meet him in her car. How did she get the gas? Well, a woman has ways. Charlie hesitates before crossing the pitch-dark, blacked-out street, but thinks that there won't be any cars on the road anyhow. And then he's struck, his head smashed, by a car traveling too fast with blacked-out headlights: it's Arlette Corail. Back in his apartment, the cleaning woman has been working long into the night, getting more and more exasperated. Just as she finishes, she knocks over the figurine of Venus, smashing its head. Imagining trying to explain this to her employer, she exclaims, "I don't care what he says. He can drop dead!"
  • One of the nobles in A Tale of Two Cities proclaims that the starving peasants can just eat grass. The rebels make sure to stuff grass in his mouth as they drag him to his death.
  • In James Herbert's post-nuclear holocaust novel Domain, a particularly obnoxious character chortles with glee at having had the foresight to build himself a nuclear bunker. He takes great delight in denying his neighbours entry and when he discovers a cat has accidentally joined him ends up killing it. However, when he gets sickened by the stench of dead cat and tries to leave he discovers that the exit hatch has been blocked shut by the remains of his house landing on it.
  • In The Pale King, a soybean farmer was decapitated by a Think Farm Safety billboard during a tornado in 1987.
  • In The Color Purple, Celie's abusive step-father dies while having sex with his latest wife—definitely ironic, since he raped Celie and had at least three wives, the last two being in their teens.
  • Tad Williams's Otherland applies a liberal dose of irony to the deaths of all of the members of the Grail Brotherhood conspiracy. Many die by committing suicide, believing that they are uploading themselves into virtual bodies, not knowing that the procedure has been sabotaged by Dread. (For further irony, the process does work, and the Other ends up using it on two of the heroes.) Shortly afterward, Daniel Yacoubian, a powerful general, is killed by getting stabbed in the chest by a teenage boy. After Dread's apocalypse, the remaining members die in similarly ironic ways: Jiun Biao, the powerful financier, is killed by a giant bug in Kunohara's simulation. David Wells, software mogul, is killed by Dread in a You Have Failed Me. And Jongleur himself dies at the hands of his own creation.
  • In Tim Dorsey's first novel, Florida Roadkill, an assassin who is a member of a Satanic cult is preparing to sacrifice Serge and Coleman (by kneeling in the middle of the highway and praying in black clothing in the middle of the night) when he is run over by a bus full of devout Christians.
  • The backstory of the Vorkosigan Saga includes the tale of Lord Vorloupulous, who tried to get around the law forbidding private armies by hiring 2000 "cooks", arming them with butcher knives, and sending them to carve up his enemies. The Emperor was not amused, and sentenced Lord Vorloupulous to death by starvation.
  • The Twits are offed by gluing them upside-down to the floor after they have tortured Muggle-Wump and his family by making them stand upside-down on top of one another.
  • Santer, the murderer of Winnetou's father and sister, is crushed by the very gold that he has been after from Winnetou I to Winnetou III.
  • In Comrade Death, Sarek is killed by the masterpiece chemical weapon that bears his name. "Sarek's Last Word" is the pinnacle of his company's weapon research and so perfect that it can't even be contained and stored.
  • Second Apocalypse: The corrupt Nonman king of Ishterebinth is constantly anointing himself with oil as if to prove his authority. When he's challenged, an enormous Nonman hero showers the king in sparks with a blow of his sword, igniting the oil and burning the king alive.
  • In The Mad King, King Leopold several times has his bacon saved by his American cousin Barney performing an Emergency Impersonation, but instead of being grateful he becomes obsessed by the idea that Barney will one day perform a permanent switch and steal his life. Near the end of the novel, he tries himself to steal Barney's life (specifically, to gain the hand of the woman they both love but who loves only Barney) by impersonating Barney — just at the point when the villains decide their best course is to try and get back in the king's good books by assassinating that American he's so obsessed with...
  • In The Stand, Harold rigs a bomb to the house where many of the community members are staying. With it, is a videotape with a Take That! speech recorded into it, intended to be played shortly before the bomb blows up. However, while the bomb does work, Nick (who tries to disable it) doesn't hear the message because he is deaf.
  • Jurassic Park has this in spades:
    • John Hammond, the owner of InGen, who created Jurassic Park boasting that he "spared no expense" is eaten at the end of the book by a pack of ''Compies'' (chicken sized dinosaurs), because he refused to pay Denis Nedry, a gifted computer programer, a decent salary, who then used his skills to disable the park's security system.
    • After disabling the park's security system, including the electric fences that kept the dinosaurs in their enclosures, Nedry realizes he got lost on his way to the port during a storm, decides to sell the stolen dinosaur embryos another day and go back to H.Q. before anything goes wrong. He crashes his car, and when he gets out, he encounters a 20 foot long Dilophosaurus that kills him and eats him.
    • At around the same time, once Alan Grant rescues Hammond's grandchildren, and the grown T.rex goes away after attacking Malcolm, Ed Regis comes out of his hiding spot, embarrassed that he wet himself, trying to act calm and in charge. He encounters the Juvenile Rex which is less than 20 feet long, he tries to shoo it away like he would an over affectionate dog. Then it bites him. Grant takes the kids into jungle while Regis gets eaten.
    • Dr. Wu, head geneticist at InGen, was disemboweled by a pack of Velociraptors that he had created.
  • Numerous examples in The Newest Plutarch biographies:
    • Pierre Janin once his newest train reached orbital velocity.
    • Isaac Izzagrdiner, with his operation on increasing the number of teeth (intended for making people healthy) causing gangrene due to unforeseen side effects.
    • Richard Smith was killed by a panther he tamed—not because it acted as a beast, but because it was jealous like a human.
    • Benito Umberti fell to his death while navigating his Gymnastyco villa.
    • Johann Zhong, with his Does Not Like Shoes policy, died from sepsis caused by a shard of glass in his foot.
  • In the Hurog duology, Ward's abusive father is introduced as a man who is proud of his own strength and of how much he is in control of everyone else, including his own children. He is killed shortly after the start of the novel when he loses control of his horse and is thrown.
  • In the Fighting Fantasy Gamebook Creature of Havoc, after you save his life from a gang, Grog dryly says that it's foolish to get involved in another man's fight and that he would have left you to your own battle if your positions were reversed. Later, when you're facing certain death by a horde of frogmen, he jumps in out of nowhere and saves your life at the cost of his own.
  • The Discworld book Reaper Man has the Counting Pines. This species became dimly aware that humans would count the rings in a tree trunk to find its age after it was felled, reasoned that this must be why humans cut trees down, and so produced numbers at eye height giving their age. Within a year almost every Counting Pine in existence was felled to supply ornamental house numbers, and the only ones remaining are found in very remote and hard-to-reach places.
  • The Diamond Brothers story I Know What You Did Last Wednesday is a murder mystery where the killer seeks to deliberately invoke this: he invites his seven former schoolfriends to a school reunion, and proceeds to have them all killed in a way befitting the subject they were best at at school, so the victim who came first in French is stabbed with a model of the Eiffel Tower, the one who came first in Geography is hit over the head with a globe, first in Sport is impaled on a javelin, first in Chemistry is poisoned, first in History is shot with an antique flintlock pistol, first in Music has an organ pipe dropped on her, and first in Maths is quite literally divided with a sword. Tim, who came first in Needlework, becomes paranoid that his death is going to come from some sort of injection or needle dipped in poison, although in the event the killer planned to have him fall off a cliff (by means of an explosive charge hidden on the cliff edge), causing him to fall onto the rocks below, which are called needles because of their long, pointed shape.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: