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I'm having a discussion with another writer: in the story, a person is describing someone else's father's disappearance and possible death. They're trying to express bitter resignation and uses the line "Just as well; either way, he's gone."

I'm not familiar with "just as well" being used to express bitter resignation; I've only ever seen it used in a positive way. Am I crazy? Can this phrase be used sarcastically?

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    I think I've mostly seen it used negatively, but I'm still not sure I'd use it in this particular sentence. Jan 12, 2021 at 11:44
  • But what other phrase would you use to express bitter resignation, especially when you take into account that the person is from, and is talking about a person from, an oppressed minority?
    – John Doe
    Jan 12, 2021 at 17:33
  • Where is the sarcasm in saying you are happy someone vanished or died? The character feels it is good, that's all. Jan 12, 2021 at 18:40
  • Can we get the previous line of dialogue? I'm still struggling to imagine what the writer is aiming for here. Jan 12, 2021 at 19:15
  • I forget exactly what it is, but it's something like "Disappeared. Or maybe he's dead." Very sympathetic to the character in question, which is why @YosefBaskin 's suggestion doesn't work.
    – John Doe
    Jan 12, 2021 at 20:53

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In short: yes, the phrase "just as well" can be used sarcastically; most anything can, under the right circumstances.

At length: In this case, the usage would probably depend more on the precise tone the character is expressing. If they're particularly irate about it, they might use a stronger word like "lovely" or "wonderful" for maximum ironic effect. "Just as well" comes off, to me, as being a relatively neutral expression without much emotional charge, so if used sarcastically it will be much milder than a "that's just peachy" or equivalent -- to such an extent that it might not read as sarcastic at all, if the surrounding context isn't clear enough.

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    "Most anything can (be used sarcastically), under the right circumstances." Yes, that is so true. These days (especially in this online world) anything can be misinterpreted or assumed to be sarcasm without facial cues in specific circumstances. Jan 12, 2021 at 18:35
  • The other writer mentioned several times "bitter resignation", so that's the feeling that they're trying to express.
    – John Doe
    Jan 12, 2021 at 18:35
  • @JohnDoe In that case, I maintain that "just as well" might be a little mild, but that also depends on this particular character's temperament. If sarcasm is something we've come to expect from them, the preceding characterization will probably make it clear that they're being facetious. If they're established as being more direct and upfront about how they feel, it'll be much easier to miss.
    – dweeblet
    Jan 13, 2021 at 0:24

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