Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Sting of Satire

I decided to briefly touch upon a wonderful outlet that allows us, through words, to really examine, and in some cases, severely criticize the world around us.  I am, of course, talking about satire.

Satire is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as "a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn" and "trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly."  It works by bringing to light terrible realities in the world.  It can function by turning a popular argument around to support the opposite side in an effort to expose the absurdity of the original argument.  In many cases, it works by shocking the reader.  Through that shock, the piece may truly deliver its message.

To see a blog devoted to satire, visit Satirical Blog.

A famous example of satire is Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal."  You can find the full version of this particular work HERE.  In this piece, Swift proposes to solve the issue of poverty by taking the poor children who would only be a burden on society and have them sold to make for a good meal.  

"I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout."

Appalling as this sounds, the precise point of such a piece is to be appalling.  It draws attention to the issues a society faces, and in cases like this, takes issue with the blatant disregard with which certain classes in a society treat those below them in the socioeconomic strata.

To see another excellent example of satire that, being more recently written, deals with an issue that we are currently dealing with as a society, go HERE.  This piece takes the anti-gay rhetoric we've been hearing of late and turns it on its head.  It not only does so skillfully, but the fact that this was written for a class by a young student makes the work even more remarkable.

And to end this little foray into satire, I'll leave you with this video.  It is composed of interviews done with prominent comedians who specialize in satire.  They may occasionally cross the line and offend, but that's part of the territory.