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What Are the Best Tips for Satire Analysis?

By G. Wiesen
Updated: May 23, 2024

When it comes to satire analysis, a reader should consider the inherent message of the satire and use that as the springboard for further analysis. Once this message is determined, then the reader should consider if the satire is “light” and “playful” or “heavier” and utilizes a “dark” tone to make its point. This can help a reader identify what type of satire he or she is analyzing, which can then make it easier to draw parallels between it and other satirical works. The satire analysis should then continue with an examination of the author’s true purpose or stance on the subject, and any solution that may be presented by the author.

Satire analysis should often begin with an overall appraisal of the subject matter found in the satire, in order to understand the basic subject of a work. A reader can initially take the work at “face value,” ignoring the satire, to determine what is being discussed. In a work like A Modest Proposal by Jonathon Swift, Swift proposes that poor Irish should sell their children to wealthy English as meat in order to be able to afford food. Ignoring the obvious and dark satire in this proposal, the subject can be quickly seen to be the poor and food shortages.

Once this subject is determined, then a reader should continue satire analysis by looking at the actual satire utilized and the tone of such satire. In the above example, the satire is clearly the proposal that people sell their children to be able to feed themselves. This is an inhumane and unthinkable act to all rational people, and so the satire in this example is clear. It is also satire with a dark and somewhat “vicious” tone to it.

Satire analysis can continue by using this information to determine what type of satire a particular work belongs to. A Modest Proposal, for example, is generally considered to be a work of Juvenalian satire, which is often “dark” and cruel in tone, and meant to indicate condemnation of some aspect of the subject matter. In contrast to this, some works may be Horatian satire, which is often “lighter” in tone and meant to be more playful in its approach to satire. Satire analysis can determine which type of satire a work utilizes, including Menippean satire that is more chaotic and universally derisive, in order to allow a reader to better understand the writer’s perspective.

All of this information can be used in satire analysis to help a reader come to understand the subject matter, the type of satire used to illustrate something about that subject, and how the writer views that subject. From there, a reader should try to determine if a real solution is being proposed by the writer, which is often included in a work of satire. This solution is frequently dismissed within the work, since the satirical viewpoint is askew to the writer’s true perspective, and so the analysis of the work should bring this solution out of the context of satire.

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