Difference Between Satire and Humor

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      Satire, irony and humor are technically distinct elements of literature. Similarly, there exist some interrelations between these elements and people often refer to them as synonymous. Satire is the mind /wits; irony is the reasoning/rhetorical tool; humor is the substance. Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be funny, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon and as a tool to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society. A common feature of satire is strong irony and sarcasm - “in satire, irony is militant”. Irony is the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning. It is a technique of indicating, as through character or plot development, an intention or attitude opposite to that which is actually or ostensibly stated. Irony is a manner of organizing a work so as to give full expression to contradictory or complementary impulses, attitudes, etc., especially as a means of indicating detachment from a subject, theme, or emotion. Parody, burlesque, exaggeration, juxtaposition, comparison, analogy, and double entendre are also frequently used in satirical speech and writing.

      Humor consists principally in the recognition and expression of incongruities or peculiarities present in a situation or character. It is frequently used to illustrate some fundamental absurdity in human nature or conduct, and is generally thought of as a kindly trait: a genial and mellow type of humor. It is “the quality of being amusing or comic, especially as expressed in literature” or everyday speech.

      So, humor is something that provokes laughter and provides amusement. Common example here would be the normal/day-to-day jokes that one might hear from a friend. Satire, on the other hand, is a genre of literature in which vices, abuses, or shortcomings are ridiculed, usually through sarcasm. While both of these usually provoke laughter, their goals, and sometimes means, are different. Humor simply aims to elicit laughter. When someone gets the joke, or someone laughs, humor succeeds. On the other hand, this is merely an extra for satires. The main goal of satire, while ridiculing shortcomings or certain mistakes in a particular society or group, is improvement (and hence, the sarcasm towards particular behavior). While humor will necessarily fail when it is not funny, satires are not necessarily funny. Satires make people think (again, by attacking a particular behavior in a particular society). Satire attacks something and has themes usually ranging from religion to politics to collective human behavior, with strong characteristics of irony and sarcasm. Mr. Bean can mostly be classified as humorous. It simply makes fun of the main character, with no particular behavior that is to be corrected, and the main goal is simply to lighten up the room through laughter. On the other hand, South Park, after deeper thinking and analysis, might be considered by some as a social satire.

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