The UVic Writer's Guide


Satire arouses laughter or scorn as a means of ridicule and derision, with the avowed intention of correcting human faults. Common targets of satire include individuals ("personal satire"), types of people, social groups, institutions, and human nature. Like tragedy and comedy , satire is often a mode of writing introduced into various literary forms; it is only a genre when it is the governing principle of a work. (See also Irony.)

In direct satire, a first-person speaker addresses either the reader or a character within the work (the adversarius) whose conversation helps further the speaker's purposes, as in Alexander Pope's "Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot" (1735).

Indirect satire uses a fictional narrative in which characters who represent particular points of view are made ridiculous by their own behaviour and thoughts, and by the narrator's usually ironic commentary. In Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726) the hero narrating his own adventures appears ridiculous in taking pride in his Lilliputian title of honour, "Nardac"; by making Gulliver look foolish in this way, Swift indirectly satirizes the pretensions of the English nobility, with its corresponding titles of "Duke" and "Marquess."

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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated May 13, 1995