Satire Examples in Literature

If you are into watching late night shows such as The Late Show with Stephen Colbert or The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, you may have noticed that they would always invite special celebrities on their show to ask them questions on their new movie, to promote a campaign of sorts, or to simply make merry and joke with them on set. But there are days that they bring up today’s societal issues and comment them in a way to get the audience’s attention in a form of wit and humor. That figure of speech is often known as satire.


Now, satire is considered to be a genre of literature. But over time, the form has constantly evolved, making its way into graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government, or society itself into improvement. This figure of speech is usually meant to be humorous in order to engage the masses through constructive social criticism, using wit to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society.

One 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 the very things the satirist wishes to attack.

Satire is nowadays found in many artistic forms of expression, including internet memes, literature, plays, commentary, television shows, and media such as lyrics.

Function of Satire

The role of satire is to ridicule or criticize those vices in society the writer considers to be 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 people’s opinions about the prevailing corruption and conditions in society.

4 Techniques of Satire

These are the four techniques on how satires can be written.

1. Exaggeration

This technique of satire is to enlarge, increase, or represent something beyond normal bounds so that it becomes ridiculous and its faults can be seen.

2. Incongruity

To present things that are out of place or are absurd in relation to its surroundings.

3. Reversal

To present the opposite of the normal order (e.g., the order of events, hierarchical order).

4. Parody

To imitate the techniques and/or style of some person, place, or thing.

Internet meme satires

Reading memes have that ability to make people laugh without exerting that much effort into it. It is often surprising on how these memes depict a clear picture of society’s present conditions or even just simply everyday things. Memes can be found everywhere in almost social media website you log into. You name it, memes are everywhere– Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr. The list goes on. And the best part is, memes are so easy to make that anyone can generate memes. All you need is just the right screen-captured moment and a witty one-liner.

Satire in Literature

If you love reading classics, you may notice that even the writers of old already had a sense of humor as they have magically injected satire into their works and have made it enjoyable for everyone to read. Below are just some examples of these satires in literature:

Example 1: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (By Mark Twain)

In Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he uses satire as a tool to share his ideas and opinions on slavery, human nature, and many other issues that afflicted American society at that time.

  • “What’s the use you learning to do right, when it’s troublesome to do right and isn’t no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same?” (Ch. 16)
  • “There warn’t anybody at the church, except maybe a hog or two, for there warn’t any lock on the door, and hogs likes a puncheon floor in summer-time because it’s cool. If you notice, most folks don’t go to church only when they’ve got to; but a hog is different.” (Ch. 18)
  • “The pitifulest thing out is a mob; that’s what an army is – a mob; they don’t fight with courage that’s born in them, but with courage that’s borrowed from their mass, and from their officers. But a mob without any man at the head of it is beneath pitifulness.” (Ch. 22)

Example 2: The Rape of the Lock (By Alexander Pope)

Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock is an example of poetic satire in which he has satirized the upper middle class of eighteenth 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 ridicules the values of the fashionable class of that age. The trivial things were thought equivalent to that of significant objects. For Belinda, the loss of her virtue becomes equal to a China jar being cracked.

Example 3: Gulliver Travels (By Jonathan Swift)

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 time, 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 in Everyday Life

Most political cartoons we see every day in newspapers and magazines are examples of satire. These cartoons criticize some recent actions of political figures in a comical way.

Some shows on television are satire examples, such as The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and The Larry Sanders Show. These shows claim to target what they think are stupid political and social viewpoints.

Let us see a sample of Stephen Colbert’s social satire:

“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 in Songs

Yes, even songs are not exempted. Listed below are the modern songs that have a satirical twist in them.

Korean pop sensation PSY and is hit song “Gangnam Style” is for everyone who cannot speak Korean, but would obviously would love to try and learn the language. It would be pretty easy to miss the satire in “Gangnam Style” as it has been pointed out several times during its inexplicable popularity that this song is actually explicitly making fun of high culture in South Korea, exemplified by the Seoul neighborhood Gangnam. With over-the-top music and an even more over-the-top video, the artist makes a mockery of the materialist and money-obsessed culture of his home country, taking on K-pop along the way. This makes it charmingly ironic that after years of K-pop artists trying to break into the West, the song that finally crosses over is actually making fun of Korean culture.

Satire in Movies

Films have always been a way to propagate ideas and concepts to the public. After all, who does not love a good movie? But it has always been a challenge to take their ideas to the next level and making the public comprehend on what the directors of the said film are trying to convey. Satire is such a method as it presents presents global issues, human nature and behavior, tragedy and motives in a comedic fashion. Not only do they mock the system, toy with the characters and express their ideas with humor and zeal, but are characterized by simple, quirky conversations and simplify what is a complex notion. This helps to abstain from preaching to the audience and keep them entertained, yet motivated.

Here is an example of a satirical film according to The Cinemaholic. Borat (2006) stars Sacha Baron Cohen as the titular character named Borat. The film is claimed to be an inaccurate and a controversial portrayal of Kazakhsthan. But the film deserves some credit for being outright honest for underneath the drama, lies a comic perception to how America’s culture is not as superior as it may be perceived to be. The main character attempts to bend the idealistic image of America being a harbinger of democracy and justice using humor.

The movie follows Borat, a journalist from a Kazakh village as he travels to New York for a documentary on USA. The film upholds the troubles faced by minorities and citizens of backward countries in the contemporary, “progressive” society. The situation is lightened, yet clearly portrayed, by coating the adversities by an essence of comedy.

We hope you found our article on satire to be informative. Satire brings humor to oftentimes bleak circumstances. If you are planning to apply satire in your future write-ups or compositions, this guide is best for you.

More Design