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Satire. What is satire?. Definition of satire: any piece of writing designed to make its readers feel critical of themselves, of their fellow human beings, or of society. Satire can be either subtle or exaggerated.

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what is satire
What is satire?
  • Definition of satire: any piece of writing designed to make its readers feel critical of themselves, of their fellow human beings, or of society. Satire can be either subtle or exaggerated.
  • Typical responses to satire: laughter at human follies or weaknesses or anger toward human vices and crimes
to whom is satire directed
To whom is satire directed?
  • Humanity in general
  • Groups of people in a similar profession or social classes
  • Leaders or politicians
why do satirists write
Why do satirists write?
  • They are dissatisfied with things as they are in society and want to change the world or make society better.
  • Satirists differ from those who want to merely do good such as moralists or missionaries because satirists emphasize and criticize what is wrong with the world and its inhabitants instead of giving constructive advice.
  • Satirists make fun of vicious, selfish, or mean-spirited people in hope that we - the readers - will see ourselves in such people and change our corrupt ways. They are not objective or passive.
devices satirists use
Devices satirists use…

Exaggeration – an overstatement

Example: Satirists like to exaggerate by picturing groups of people in a negative way or associating a negative connotation with a specific profession. For example, they may claim all politicians are corrupt or all young adults are irresponsible.

Understatement - to state or represent less strongly or less strikingly than the facts would suggest

An understatement is the opposite of an exaggeration. Understatements are usually casual in tone.

*What are some examples of exaggerations and understatements used in modern society?

satirical devices continued
Satirical devices continued…

Irony - the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning

Example: Irony is similar to sarcasm if it is cruel or cutting. Some may say “Great!” when they mean terrible. In literature irony is extended beyond mere sarcasm. However, the writer who constantly uses irony runs the risk of being misunderstood. Irony is best when used appropriately and for emphasis.

a modest proposal
A Modest Proposal
  • Published in 1729 as a pamphlet by Jonathan Swift
  • Describes the desperate condition in Ireland at that time
  • Protest against the English treatment of the Irish
  • Background: For three years prior to 1729 the harvest by Irish farmers was poor (famine) and they did not have enough crops to feed their families after they sold a portion of the crops to pay their English landlords.
  • Beggars were abundant and there were many starving children on the streets.
  • English policies kept the Irish poor and hungry.
  • In A Modest Proposal, Swift offers his solution to these problems. He assumes the role of a practical and economic planner. He is objective, fair, and straightforward.
  • As you read, note where you first realize what Swift’s modest proposal is and how you initially react to his plan. (Be sure to annotate your text…it will help you with the writing assignment that will follow the reading.)