Satire: Definition, Examples & Meaning

Also Read

      Satire is a literary technique to expose and criticize foolishness and corruption of an individual or a society with the help of humor, irony, sarcasm, exaggeration and ridicule. It is intended by the author to improve humanity by criticizing its follies and foibles. The writers of satire think that the reference to the silly mistakes of people will help them to overcome their weakness. 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. Therefore, 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. Satire is nowadays found in many artistic forms of expression, including literature, plays, commentary, television shows, and media such as lyrics. For example, Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock is an example of poetic satire in which he has satirized the upper middle class of 18th century England. It exposes the vanity of young fashionable ladies and gentlemen and the frivolity of their actions. For example, Pope says about Belinda after losing her lock of hair:

Whether the nymph shall break Diana’s law,
Or some frail china jar receive a flaw,
Or stain her honor, or her new brocade

      The line mocks at the values of the fashionable class of that age. The trivial things were thought of as equal to significant things. For Belinda, the loss of her virtue becomes equal to a China jar being cracked.

      Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver Travels is 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.

      Satire and irony are interlinked. Irony is the difference between what is said or done and what is actually meant. Therefore, writers frequently employ satire to point at the dishonesty and silliness of individuals and society and criticize them by ridiculing them. Irony is the intellectual use of language to convey quite the opposite sense of the overt items for the sake of creating humorous effects. A writer in a satire uses fictional characters, which stand for real people, to expose and condemn their corruption. A writer may point a satire toward a person, a country or even the entire world. Usually, a satire is a comical piece of writing which makes fun of an individual or a society to expose its stupidity and shortcomings. A feature of satire is strong irony or sarcasm -“in satire, irony is militant” - but parody, burlesque, exaggeration, juxtaposition, comparison, analogy, and double entendre are all frequently used in satirical speech and writing. This ‘militant’ irony or sarcasm often professes to approve of (or at least accept as natural) the very things the satirist wishes to attack.

Previous Post Next Post