During Scene 1, Jones and Smithers reflect on how Jones came to occupy the position of Emperor on the island through “bloomin’ luck” and trickery. In doing so, the pair reveal the fact that Jones’s claim to imperial power relies entirely on his subjects’ ignorance, in an example of dramatic irony:
Smithers: You said yer’d got a charm so’s no lead bullet’d kill yer. You was so strong only a silver bullet could kill yer, you told ’em. Blimey, wasn’t that swank for yer—and plain, fat-’eaded luck?
Jones [Proudly] : I got brains and I uses ’em quick. Dat ain’t luck.
Smithers: Yer know they wasn’t ’ardly liable to get no silver bullets. And it was luck ’e didn’t ’it you that time.
Jones [Laughing]: And dere all dem fool, bush n----rs was kneelin’ down and bumpin’ deir heads on de ground like I was a miracle out o’ de Bible. Oh Lawd, from dat time on I has dem all eatin’ out of my hand.
Jones, Smithers, and the audience are fully aware that he is human and fallible and that the story he tells the natives is merely that: a fabricated story. But his lie is convincing enough for the people of the island to believe him and worship him as godlike. By imbuing himself with this false immortality, Jones wins the respect and fear of the natives and secures his privileged status, turning simple luck into a signal of divinity.
However, by including the specific qualification that no bullet except one made of silver can kill him, Jones also creates the means of his own destruction, adding a layer of situational irony to this moment. When crafting his lie, Jones might just as easily have said he was totally immortal—he never needed to include a qualifier at all. Jones’s words are therefore his own downfall; by telling this lie, he inspires Lem and the other natives to seek out and create the exact tool they use to kill him later in the play.