Literature is a broad field, and there are different ways to present literature and have it play its significant role in shaping society. One of these ways is through satire.
Satire is a form of humor that mocks someone or something.
It is often used to criticize social issues, political issues, religion, and other topics. Satirical content is usually humorous, but sometimes it can also be serious.
Satire can be used as an attack on the author’s society or culture. It may satirize another person or group, or it may simply mock something that has been done before.
There are different satire types that writers use to address various audiences. Below are the three main classifications of the common types of satirical techniques with examples;
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1. Juvenalian satire
This type of satire was popular in ancient Rome during the time of Juvenal. This style of writing satirized people who were corrupt politicians, religious leaders, and wealthy individuals.
The purpose of this kind of satire is to show how ridiculous some things seem when they are compared to animal behavior.
For example, if you compare human beings to animals, you will see that humans have more intelligence than most animals.
However, we still behave like animals because our emotions control us instead of reason. In addition, there are many similarities between humans and animals; for instance, both species eat food, sleep, reproduce, and die.
Juvenal used parody or political satire to condemn the monstrous acts of corrupt politicians and other political issues.
Political satire is a form of political communication that usually stirs public discourse as society expresses its displeasure in leaders.
It can challenge a political ideology or any form of disconnect between the leader and the people. This type of satire comes in the form of print media and news parody.
Print satire uses words and images to ridicule specific events, ideas, institutions, or persons.
Examples of satirical print literature are:
George Orwell’s Animal farm
This book tells the story of four animals living together in a barn called “Animal Farm”. They live under the rule of a human farm owner. Eventually, all animals rebel against the rules, but there’s a betrayal in their midst. After all the chaos, the animals fall under the dictatorial rulership of pig Napoleon. This great piece of literature points to many issues but mainly the Russian Revolution.
Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
This is a satirical novel written by Mark Twain. It takes place in England, where Hank Morgan travels back in time to medieval times. There he meets King Arthur and his knights. While travelling through history, Hank learns many lessons from the past, including the importance of education. The real satire in this novel is towards the unjust king and his court and the church that teaches false doctrines.
News parodies are similar to print satires, focusing on current news stories rather than historical ones.
They are usually written in short pieces called “satires”, which poke fun at certain aspects of modern life.
There are various forms of news, namely: political news, fake news, news on learning, current events news. All these forms impact news consumers in ways that shouldn’t be ignored.
Apart from addressing the issue at hand, misused satire can cause lethal audience effects.
In most cases, person-focused satire usually causes a major persuasion impact on the audience and causes various audience responses.
Satirical news effects include excitement, anger, resentment, fear, disgust, sadness, happiness, surprise, confusion, and amusement.
For example, reading about a celebrity cheating scandal may make someone angry with the cheater but happy that the truth was revealed.
On the contrary, reading about a politician lying might make someone sad since they know how much damage lies can do.
2. Horatian satire
It is a form of satire that uses irony to mock socially crooked characters. Horace uses satire when addressing various social evils, including corruption, hypocrisy, greed, injustice, cruelty, etc.
Horace’s satires include examples of his own life experiences. His poems contain references to real-life events and situations he encountered while living in Italy.
For example, one poem accounts for his experience at a dinner party where guests ate too much and drank too much wine.
In his poems, Horace says that wine exposes the secrets of the heart. These secrets are the evils that societal crooks practise away from the public eye.
Wine also gives confidence to otherwise shy people, and they become the loudest.
“Ode to a Wine Jar (Horace III.XXI, translation by Kat)
“You bring back hope to anxious minds And give strength and the horn * to the pauper (*the horn-a symbol of power and confidence) who trembles neither at the angry crowns of kings Or the weapons of soldiers, after you.”
3. Menippean satire
Menippean satire exposes and ridicules an individual’s mental attitude. This nature of satire is usually written in prose.
It attacks a wide range of social imbalances such as bigotry, perversion and male incompetence.
Since Menippean satire requires a lot of time and work to make a point, it’s usually in the form of screenplays.
Television shows are used to condemn classism, xenophobia, racism and other social issues that stem from wrong beliefs.
Satirical humor is meant to correct bad habits and attitudes. It can also help people understand what’s right and wrong.
An example of Menippean satire is in Stanley Kubrick’s film ‘Dr. Strangelove‘.
The movie was made during the Cold War era. At that time, America had just started developing its first hydrogen bomb.
If something like this happened today, we would have no choice but to retaliate with our atomic weapons.
In addition to being funny, Menippean Satire has serious messages behind it. It’s about what would actually happen if someone pressed the wrong button, and in this case, it’s the wrong person doing it.
Satire has been around even before the 18th century. It’s human nature to find humor in everything, even where there’s sadness, because laughter is a coping mechanism.
There are different kinds of satirical humor. Some of them use exaggeration, others use sarcasm, and yet others use irony.
In all types of satire, there’s a specific social, political or religious study happening.
However, the reactions that any form of satire receives depend on the audience characteristics and audience perceptions.
To create good satire, writers must know the audience well enough to get their attention. For example, if your target audience is children, you should avoid making jokes that adults might find offensive.