Sunday, January 18, 2015

What Is Satire?

Satire is the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

Satire can be used in plays, novels, films, or other work that uses satire.

Synonyms: mockery, ridicule, derision, scorn, caricature, irony, sarcasm, parody, burlesque, caricature, lampoon, skit, spoofs, wit

Examples of Satire in Everyday Life:

Most political cartoons which we witness every day in newspapers and magazines are examples of satire.  These cartoons criticize some recent actions of political figures in a comical way.

Some shows on television are satire examples like The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and The Larry Sanders Show. These shows target what they think are stupid political and social viewpoints.
Caricature of Stephen Colbert

Sample of Stephen Colbert's social satire:

"If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it."

Satire Examples in Literature

Mark Twain

Example #1:  There are numerous examples of satire in Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. He uses satire as a tool to share his ideas and opinion on slavery, human nature and many other issues.  Below are a few citations from the novel that demonstrates satire:

"What's the use you learning to do right, when it's troublesome to do right and isn't no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same?  (Chapter 16)

"There wasn't anybody at the church, except maybe a hog or two, for there warn't any lock on the door, and the hogs likes a puncheon floor in summer-time because it's cool.  If you notice, most folks don't go to church only when they've got to; but a hog is different."  (Chapter 18)

"The pitifulest thing out is a mob; that what an army is--a mob; they don't fight with courage that's born in them, but with courage that's borrowed from their mass, and from their officers.  But a mob without any man at the head of it is beneath pitifulness."  (Chapter 22)

Example #2:  Jonathan Swift, Irish author and satirist wrote Gulliver's Travels one of the finest satirical works in English Literature.  Swift relentlessly satirizes politics, religion and Western Culture. Criticizing party politics in England, Swift writes, "that for above seventy Moons past there have been two struggling Parties in this Empire, under the Names of Tramecksan and Slamecksan from the high and low Heels on their shoes, by which they distinguish themselves."

During Swift's times, two rival political parties, the Whigs and the Tories, dominated the English political scene.  Similarly, "The Kingdom of Lilliput" is dominated by two parties distinguished by the size of the heels of their boots.  By the trivial disputes between the two Lilliputian parties," Swift satirizes the minor disputes of the two English parties of his period.

Function of Satire

The role of satire is to ridicule or criticize those vices in the society, which the writer considers a threat to civilization.  The writer considers it his obligation to expose these vices for the betterment of humanity.  The function of satire is not to make others laugh at persons or ideas they make fun of.  It intends to warn the public and to change their opinions about the prevailing corruption/conditions in society.


Cartoonists are great at showing and writing cartoons. Here are some examples: 

I do not write satire, but I can write sarcasm on occasion.  I hope everyone who has an opinion on satire leaves a comment.  My opinion is we have to have freedom of speech even if I disagree with them.  Now, was that satire, or sarcasm?

Thank you for reading my blog, have a good week and come back next Sunday.

Sandra K. Marshall, author
@ Eirelander Publishing


Kari Rogers Miller said...

Food for Thought Sandy...good post.
I can speak sarcasm....just ask my family! :)
As far as the little verification note below...I need to check the box that says "I'm not a robot"...but am I? if I check the box?

Melissa Keir said...

I also think that satire is important but there can be times it's used to bully and degrade others. As you pointed out in your definition, it can be mockery...Children struggle with this. They say things that are unkind and then tell that it was only a joke when in fact most jokes have kernels of truth. We must always be careful of that fine line.

Sandy said...

Oh, Kari, you're a hoot. The robot is something blogger set up not me, but I think it's a good thing. You're definitely not a robot. lol

Glad you liked my post.

Sandy said...

Melissa, satire should be used to point out problems in society and not to ridicule others.

Children who use mockery to bully most of the time learn it from their parents.

Anonymous said...

Satire in movies always works for Mel Brooks. Blazing Saddles, Meatballs, etc.

helena said...

You may ask yourself how it is possible that we are always at war. Are there really that many enemies of America and Democracy out there that we must sacrifice our young men and spend billions of dollars while poverty ..
Political fiction

helena said...

I want to express my empathy for the millions of Americans who find it necessary to get “high” to get through the day...
Social crises

helena said...

Voters must by now recognize you are electing incompetents at best, and at worst, true sociopaths. Yet the constant, na├»ve, pro-democracy mantra is, “We just need to elect the right people.

Political advocacy

helena said...

The next war: If you want to predict the future, create it. Demonize countries and guarantee the next war by manipulating public opinion: fear of terrorists blowing up shopping centers

International politics

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