What is the irony in A Single Shard?

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The Newbery Medal-winning novel A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park is a young adult historical novel that features the famous and highly prized Celadon (greenware) pottery of Korea’s Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) in its storyline. The protagonist , an adolescent boy named Tree-ear, is fascinated by the work of the...

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The Newbery Medal-winning novel A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park is a young adult historical novel that features the famous and highly prized Celadon (greenware) pottery of Korea’s Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) in its storyline. The protagonist, an adolescent boy named Tree-ear, is fascinated by the work of the town’s finest potter, Min. Min is a perfectionist and throws out more of his work than he keeps. His perfectionism also causes him to work very slowly and never earn much.

However, Min’s fine work catches the attention of the king’s emissary, Kim, who awards royal commissions and wants to see more of Min’s work. Tree-ear agrees to make the journey to Songdo, the royal city, in order to deliver samples of Min’s work, two vases, for evaluation.

What happens to the vases en route to the royal city is a great example of situational irony. Robbers who expect to find rice in Tree-ear’s basket discover the precious vases and break them out of spite. Tree-ear makes the best of the situation, however. He picks up one of the broken pieces and continues his journey. When he reaches the royal city, Tree-ear finds Kim and shows him the shard. This small sample is enough to convince the royal emissary that Min’s work is worthy of a lifetime royal commission.

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