Satire is used in many works of literature to show foolishness or vice in humans, organizations, or even governments - it uses sarcasm, ridicule, or irony. For example, satire is often used to effect political or social change, or to prevent it.
Satire can be used in a part of a work or it can be used throughout an entire work.
A satirist can direct the satire toward one individual, a whole country or even the world. It is sometimes serious, acting as a protest or to expose, or it can be comical when used to poke fun at something or someone.
Satire examples from media include:
Satire commonly takes the form of mocking politicians. Consider the following examples of political satire.
It was one of the founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, who is credited with creating, and printing the first political cartoon in America. Franklin was attempting to rally support for his plan for an inter-colonial association, in order to deal with the Iraquois Indians at the Albany Congress of 1754.
Franklin’s cartoon depicts a snake, cut into pieces, with each piece representing one of the colonies. The cartoon was published in every newspaper in America, and had a major impact on the American conscience.
The words “Join, or Die” eluded to the Indian threat, but much of the effectiveness of this image was due to a commonly held belief at the time, that a dead snake could come back to life if the severed pieces were placed back together. Franklin’s cartoon effectively grabbed the American peoples minds, and implanted an idea that endured even though the Albany Congress turned out to be a failure.
The image of the snake became the symbol for colonial unification, and was transferred to the colonial battle flag “Don’t Tread on Me”, and became part of the American spirit.
Though Thomas Nast is credited with greatly influencing the American public during the Civil War, He is most remembered for his cartoon attack against political corruption in New York City. Nast created political cartoons in the 1870’s that exposed the corruption of Boss Tweed and New York’s corrupt Tammany Hall political machine.
One of the cartoons printed by Nast, showed Tweed and the Tammany Hall Ring pointing at each other in answer to the question, “who stole the people’s money?” After this cartoon appeared, Tweed supposedly made the statement, “Stop them damned pictures. I don’t care what the papers write about me. My constituents can’t read. But damn it, they can see pictures.”
“Tomorrow you're all going to wake up in a brave new world, a world where the Constitution gets trampled by an army of terrorist clones, created in a stem-cell research lab run by homosexual doctors who sterilize their instruments over burning American flags. Where tax-and-spend Democrats take all your hard-earned money and use it to buy electric cars for National Public Radio, and teach evolution to illegal immigrants. Oh, and everybody's high!”
“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 can be found in literature as well. Consider the following explanation about satire in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was written shortly after the Civil War, in which slavery was one of the key issues. While Mark Twain's father had slaves throughout his childhood, Twain did not believe that slavery was right in anyway. Through the character of Jim, and the major moral dilemma that followed Huck throughout the novel, Twain mocks slavery and makes a strong statement about the way people treated slaves. Miss Watson is revered as a good Christian woman, who had strong values, but she is a slave owner in the story. She owns a slave called Jim, who runs away upon hearing that Miss Watson might sell him to New Orleans.
Satire examples can also be found in the following examples of irony, parody, and sarcasm.
In irony, words are used to show the opposite of the actual meaning. The three kinds of irony are:
Here is an example of irony from The Simpsons television show, spoken by the character Sideshow Bob:
“I'm aware of the irony of appearing on TV in order to decry it."
A great example of irony in literature comes from The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. It is a story of two people, much in love, who are very poor and want to give a Christmas gift to one another. She is very proud of her long, beautiful hair and he is equally proud of his pocket watch. The irony comes in to play when she cuts and sells her hair to buy him a chain for his watch, and he sells the watch to buy her combs for her hair.
A parody is also called a spoof, and is used to make fun or mock someone or something by imitating them in a funny or satirical way. Parody is found in literature, movies, and song.
A good example or a parody is the song “Girls Just Want to Have Lunch” by Weird Al Yankovic, which is a parody of the song “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper.
Following is an excerpt of Al’s song:
Some girls like to buy new shoes
And others like drivin' trucks and wearing tattoos
There's only one thing that they all like a bunch
Oh, girls, they want to have lunch...
I know how to keep a woman satisfied
When I whip out my Diner's Card their eyes get so wide
They're always in the mood for something to munch
Oh, girls, they want to have lunch...
Sarcasm is a sharp or cutting statement like a taunt or jibe, meant to really drive a point home. It can be meant to give pain and can include irony. On the other hand, sometimes you can make a point and still be funny.
Here are some examples of sarcasm that are humorous, but still get their meaning across.
Groucho Marx used many sarcastic one-liners in his comedy. Here are a few:
Satire covers many different methods including irony, sarcasm, burlesque, parody, exaggeration, juxtaposition and double entendres.