The Ultimate Safari

by Nadine Gordimer

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Student Question

What are three examples of irony in "The Ultimate Safari"?

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In verbal irony, words have more than one meaning. We can find verbal irony in the words of the title, the "ultimate safari." For the rich white tourists in Kruger Park, the destination is a luxury, allowing them to tour the African landscape in comfort and style. They are the hunters, not the hunted. Ironically, however, the "ultimate safari" for the young Black narrator and her family is a journey that is harrowing and filled with hunger and privation. They are as hunted as the animals, but with fewer resources. Their "safari" is no fun, a sign not of privilege but of desperation.

Dramatic irony occurs when readers know something characters in a work of literature do not. In this case, adult readers would most likely be aware that the grandfather is dead before the child narrator realizes this, especially with the imagery of the vultures circling overhead.

Situational irony is when situations are different than they seem. At the end of the story, the white woman who visits the family in the refugee tent assumes they must want to return home to Mozambique. To the grandmother, however, the tent and camp are their safe haven. The grandmother has no desire to return "home" to the place of disruption and death from which she came. The supposedly temporary refugee camp, ironically, is now her home.

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