What is Satire?

What is Satire

Humor, irony, and exaggeration used to criticize, ridicule, or expose.

Use satire to draw attention to a problem with the hope of correcting it.

George Orwell's Animal Farm is a model of modern satire used to expose the abuse of power in a totalitarian society.

  • Aggressive satire focuses on leaders, politicians, and public figures, using heavy sarcasm and harsh, brazen language.

Example: Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal

  • Some writers use wry humor and light mockery, a form of parody to make people think without offending their sensibilities. It’s designed to entertain, making the satire more palatable.

Example: Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

  • The oldest form of satire bears a stinging tone and focuses on beliefs or vices.

Example: William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Satire Techniques

Exaggeration blows something out of proportion to highlight its faults. Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story exaggerates modern-day capitalism.

Incongruity uses juxtaposition to make things appear absurd. It uses anachronisms or illogic to test the reader’s idea of plausibility.

Reversal presents the opposite of normal to make a point. Malorie Blackman's Noughts & Crosses portrays Africans enslaving white people in an alternate reality.


  • The syndicated comic strip Calvin and Hobbes satirizes how people perceive nature. Hobbes warns Calvin not to jump into a pile of leaves because there could be slimy slugs in it. Calvin rethinks his decision and goes back inside to watch television.
  • Paul Beatty’s The Sellout portrays a young black protagonist trying to reinstate slavery.

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