What are some examples of each type of irony in "Thank You, M'am" by Langston Hughes?

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The story "Thank you, Ma'am” illustrates the three main types of irony: situational, dramatic, and verbal.

Situational irony occurs in a narrative when the outcome or result is different from what is expected. At the beginning of the story, Roger snatches Mrs. Jones’ purse and falls over before he can run away. Then she kicks him, grabs him by his shirt, and forces him to pick up and return her purse. We expect that Roger will be set free and flee after giving her back her purse. Surprisingly, the livid Mrs. Jones refuses to let him go and takes him back to her apartment by putting "a half-nelson about his neck."

Her rough handling of the boy implies an impending physical punishment. However, while she scolds him, she offers him a sink to wash his face, a warm dinner to eat, and money to purchase coveted “blue suede shoes.” Ultimately, she not only shows him kindness and empathy, but also tries to teach him right from wrong.

Dramatic irony is when the readers know about a situation of which the characters are ignorant. This type of irony occurs when Mrs. Jones releases Roger to go and wash his face.

Roger looked at the door—looked at the woman—looked at the door—and went to the sink.

We know that he could make a dash to escape, but Mrs. Jones does not (or at least does not seem to). And then after washing up, the boy spies another chance to flee.

The door was open. He could make a dash for it down the hall. He could run, run, run, run, run!

Although she may realize the possibility of the boy’s escape, she acts as if there is no chance of him fleeing or that she is unaware of the open door.

Finally, verbal irony occurs when a character states the opposite of what she or he means or intends to communicate. Mrs. Jones displays verbal irony when she tells Roger,

I were young once and I wanted things I could not get.

This statement implies that she—like Roger—coveted things she could not have but did not turn to crime like him. He and the readers then expect her to say that she was good and did not steal. She knows that Roger may interpret her statement to be a preamble to a lecture on how she avoided a life of crime when obtaining “things” she wanted. Instead, she says,

You thought I was going to say but, didn’t you? You thought I was going to say, but I didn’t snatch people’s pocketbooks. Well, I wasn’t going to say that…I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son—neither tell God, if he didn’t already know.

Her earlier statement sets up an interpretation that ultimately conflicts with reality.

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