Satire – Terms and Definitions

Satire – Terms and Definitions
• Satire is a literary work in which vices,
follies, stupidities, abuses, etc., are held
up to ridicule and contempt.
– A pointing out of the difference between how
things are and how they ought to be
• Folly is a lack of good sense or prudence
• Vice is moral depravity or corruption
Purpose of Satire
• All literature has two primary purposes: to
please/entertain and to instruct
• Criticism is the base of any satire, and a
satirical piece attempts through ridicule or
scorn to correct the ills, follies, and vices
of society (satirists want to improve
humanity and/or society).
• Satirical targets may be a person, group,
or institution
Satire versus Comedy
• Comedy evokes laughter as an end in itself for
pleasure and entertainment.
• Satire uses laughter as a weapon aimed at
someone or something. In other words, wit
becomes a weapon.
• Irony is a device of satire in which the opposite
of what is said is actually meant (verbal), a
situation turns out different from expected
(situational), or when an audience or reader
knows a truth that the characters do not
Other devices of Satire
• Mockery: making fun of something
• Sarcasm: harsh, personally directed comment;
using praise to mock someone
• Hyperbole: say more than is meant
• Litotes: say less than is meant; a statement
which denies its opposite
– Rather than saying that someone is attractive, one
might say that they are “not unattractive”
• Parody: imitation of a specific, known person,
literary work, event (often mocking)
Other Devices of Satire
• Incongruity: To present things that are out of place or
are absurd in relation to its surroundings. Particular
techniques include oxymoron, metaphor, and irony.
• Reversal: To present the opposite of the normal order.
Reversal can focus on the the order of events, such as
serving dessert before the main dish or having breakfast
for dinner. Additionally, reversal can focus on
hierarchical order—for instance, when a young child
makes all the decisions for a family or when an
administrative assistant dictates what the company
president decides and does.
• Distortion: The act of misrepresenting the facts or
• Bathos: going from the serious to the ridiculous quickly,
Examples of Bathos
• Bathos is an anticlimax, or a shift in mood from
the sublime to the ridiculous. For example:
– ... he ran up the stairs, thunder rolling around
the house. A sense of dread built like black
smoke in his mind. In haste he sped along the
landing, breathless. He kicked open the door,
ran into the room and slipped on the banana
skin in the doorway.'
Vehicles of Satire
Political cartoons
Comic strips
Movies (National Lampoon’s series, Monty
Python & the Holy Grail, Monty Python’s
Life of Brian)