Sample Essays

Frontline #

The Language of Satire

Satire and the Media #

John Clarke, renown for “The Games’, believes that Satire is an antidote to being lied to.  Satire is the great leveller, the democratic means of smirking at pretension and power.  Roy and HG use their skills of mockery to trivialise the serious and treat serious subjects trivially.  Satire is an attempt to tell the truth about situations and people however as Jonathan Swift said,”It is a kind of glass wherein the beholder sees everyone but himself”.

Purpose: #

Satire is used to expose and denounce hypocrisy, stupidity, absurdity, folly or vice in society or professed pillars of our society. Satire can be used to shine a light on the inanity and ugliness of human behaviour

Synonyms: #

Send up, Rip-off, Lampoon, tongue-in-cheek or Take the piss (mickey) out,   Take a lend of, Knock, Bagging, Diss.,…,

The essence of satire is to make the serious appear trivial; the trivial serious.

Characteristics of Satire: #

Satire uses humour in poking fun, ridiculing or deriding the behaviour of people, especially those who pretend or are filled with self-importance without cause. Satire chooses targets it cares about to gently mock or send up causing laughter. On the other hand, sarcasm tends to be stinging, cutting, bitter acerbic, even savage in its criticism evoking scorn, contempt and even hatred.

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Humour #

In order to soften us up and lower our defences, satire adopts a light-hearted tone and spices its message with a jocular attitude so that we become more receptive.

Subtlety #

The satire is implicit and may not be evident to an uninformed or innocent reader. Satire is also often topical, localised and contemporary, therefore dates easily.

Exaggeration #

Hyperbole, overstated/understated, caricatures, stereotypes, or distortion - Everything is not what it seems, nothing can be accepted at face value.

Techniques - devices #

Target #

A target; a simpleton, a stooge; the butt or victim of the ridicule — fall guy; generally someone who takes themselves overly seriously — or it can be a dupe or gull.

Analogy #

Analogy, extended or sustained; fable or travelogue with implied meanings

Inversion #

Inversion — the unexpected. Characters get opposite roles.

Mock #

Mock — Heroic: Treating a trivial subject overly seriously by using inflated heroic language.

Serious #

-Serious Treating a minor event overly serious.

Tragic #

-Tragic - Treating a minor incident overly tragically.

Trivial #

Trivial - Treating a trivial subject in an overly-inflated manner.

Black Humour #

Black Humour - Treating a serious or tragic incident trivially or jokingly.

Literal Inversion #

Literal inversion — sentences inverted

Parody #

Parody, Imitation, mimicry - The writer uses the same word order or style as another well known writer, but distorts the message by changing a few key words.

Our Examiner who art in Sydney,

Anonymous be thy name,

Thy mark is to come

My Paper’s done

Pun #

Pun: puns are another satirical device which employs two meanings relying on the different uses of a word. Puns can be used to set the tone of the satirical piece — whether it is light hearted or serious in its intention.


Other Techniques of Satire #

Satire, the gentle teasing of something you love, owes its success to the use of IRONY.

Irony #

Irony comes in many forms, but essentially refers to a discrepancy between what is said and what is meant. There is the obvious, literal or superficial meaning and on another level, an intended, deeper or opposite meaning. Irony is often subtle. There are at least 5 kinds:

  1. Dramatic - The audience/reader knows something the speaker is not aware of.

  2. Situational — When circumstances turn out opposite of what is expected.

  3. Verbal - The words used are the opposite to the intended meaning.

  4. Tonal - The writer adopts one tone but the reader responds with an opposite one. Eg: the writer calmly describes an horrific scene that arouses horror in the reader.

  5. Authorial - Comments or interpretation of the author is undermined by an undercurrent or below-the-surface implication, contradicting each other.

Irony has the ability to heighten and hold the reader’s interest by giving pleasure, relief, humour and stimulus. It is an inclusive device seeming to take the responder into the composer’s confidence. Irony is seldom malicious or spiteful.

Contrast #

Contrast — Irony places unexpected opposites side by side.

Juxtaposition #

Juxtaposition — Putting together two contrasting or opposing ideas.

Incongruity #

Incongruity or contrast — Putting together two events, characters, things or conversations to highlight opposition and expose folly or vice.

Paradox #

Paradox - An apparent absurd or contradictory statement eg: “The first shall be last “.

Oxymoron #

Oxymoron - the placement of opposing words next to each other —eg: bitter sweet..

Hyperbole #

Hyperbole or Caricature — the deliberate distortion of a target by exaggerating or emphasising a salient feature. Fully blown, vices, banalities, ludicrous actions can be ridiculed when they are overstated.

Understatement #

Understatement - Sometimes the satirist will try an opposite effect by treating a serious subject in a trivialising manner. By understating something the composer demonstrates that they are in control of the situation and appear calm and reasonable.

Tone #

Tone: The overall tone of satiric passage is light hearted, jocular or mocking. Satire seldom preaches or teaches didactically so it attempts to sugar coat its message by entertaining the audience. It is much more likely to get its message across.


The aim of satire is to ridicule the world, and through shame to change it.  If, however the target of your satire is shameless, its effect is limited.  John Gay’s 18^(th) century satire of Prime Minister Robert Walpole, had the Prime Minister book a box at the theatre and loudly applaud.  John Howard was similar.  Many cartoonists, columnists and news editors gave up, as all attempts to shame Howard backfired and he gained in popularity. Most politicians prefer being pilloried rather than ignored.