Satire in Literature: Definition, Types & Examples

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shamekia Thomas

Shamekia has taught English at the secondary level and has her doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

Satire is a literary device used to create change through the use of sarcasm, humor and ridicule. Learn more about different types of satire, and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Definition of Satire

Satire is the use of different elements such as irony, sarcasm, humor and ridicule to criticize or mock the foolish behavior of others. Although the use of satire is often entertaining, it is also often used to bring attention to a particular subject and promote change.

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  • 0:02 Definition of Satire
  • 0:21 Horatian Satire
  • 1:25 Juvenalian Satire
  • 2:26 Lesson Summary
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Types of Satire in Literature: Horatian

Horatian satire is clever and humorous and generally mocks others. Horatian satire is not negative; it aims to make fun of human behavior in a comic way. In a work using Horatian satire, readers often laugh at the characters in the story who are the subject of mockery as well as themselves and society for behaving in those ways. One example of Horatian satire in literature is The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. In the play, the word 'earnest' is satirized throughout the story. In Victorian times, to be 'earnest' was to be intelligent; however, two of the women in the story desire a man named Earnest just because they like the name.

Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice is also an example of a novel showing Horatian satire. Pride and Prejudice shows the ignorance of the people during the 18th century. In the novel, Jane Austen makes fun of various characters in the story and their views of marriage and relationships. Some characters are simply interested in the marriage but not the relationship.

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