What was ironic about the public's reaction when Professor Sherman's balloon was first launched and their reaction to his return?

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clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The irony of the public reaction to Sherman's take off and return lies in the amount of fanfare associated with his return compared to the general nothingness of his departure.

In his words:

As I sailed away August 15th at two o'clock in the afternoon, I was amazed to see that only four of my closest friends were on hand to see me off.

Despite the fact that he notified the press of his adventure (the story was given half a column on the fourth page), Sherman was not surprised by the relative disinterest in his journey.  He believed that no one was interested because his balloon was not the biggest ever to sail.

After being found in the middle of the Atlantic, however, among the wreckage of twenty balloons, it seems the entire country is interested to hear Sherman's story.  His hometown of San Francisco prepares for his arrival by train with several days worth of balloon inspired celebration, including balloon decorations, balloon themed food, music, and new balloon inventions which are to make his arrival a memorable one.

His arrival is almost laughably overdone, and in comparison to the unnoticed event of his departure, his audience's ironic interest seems to be peaked by the fact that Sherman may have actually failed, but also lived to tell about it.

Read the study guide:
The Twenty-One Balloons

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