Education Knowledge

Different Types of Satire in English Literature: Main Styles, Definitions and Examples

Satire is quite common in contemporary culture. It can be part of any cultural work, art, and entertainment. The humorous technique is used in different interpretations, as reflected in satire essay examples: to tease, to stimulate social change, to expose bad actions. The literary genre has a long history and it is as relevant today as it was in ancient times. It is actively used in works, film and television. You can learn more about satire in our article.

The Concept of Satire

Satire is a literary genre that involves overstatement, irony, humor, or sarcasm to criticize and reveal the shortcomings of human nature or behavior.  In addition to all this, it is also a technique that is often used to criticize politics and current issues.

It has been widely popular in different cultures for centuries. With its help, it is easy to emphasize certain human shortcomings and immoral or corrupt misdeeds. But this does not mean at all that it is aimed only at ridiculing the object. Its main purpose is to make people realize their negative actions and have an opportunity to change their behavior or way of life. Today, there are 3 types of satire in literature – Horatian, Juvenalian, and Menippean.

Purpose of Satire

Satire has long been used by thinkers and writers to expose the evils propagated in society. It is a great way to criticize human nature by means of artistic writing. The main subjects are often social conventions, political actions, or situations. As a result, due to its cultural context, satire reveals to readers the negative policies of statesmen, morals, and human behavior. Writers can use three types of this genre depending on what they want to show in their work. Each of them has its characteristics and differences.

Horatian Satire

This genre is named after the Roman satirist Horace. It is one of the main types of satire that uses humor. In this form, people or events can be laughed at in a comedic way. Moreover, the objective here is to be carefree and contribute to the improvement of what is being ridiculed. Also, the use of parody is common in this type. This type is not as harsh and edgy. It is considered more intelligent, with mild mockery and reasonable wit, unlike other types of satire.

Juvenalian Satire      

It is named after Juvenal, another famous Roman satirist. This type is the darkest and most serious of all the forms of satire. It is frequently used to demonstrate disappointment or frustration regarding things that are going on.  This genre is commonly found in the anti-utopia style to show the shortcomings of both economic and intellectual spheres.

It is a sharper and more straightforward type of satire. It uses irony, insults aimed at the individual, and sarcasm that is often focused on social conventions and worldviews. It usually shows anger and resentment toward a particular problem or situation.

Menippean Satire

It is named as a homage to the Greek satirist Menippius. This is the oldest-known form of satire. As a rule, it criticizes a general system of beliefs rather than individuals. It focuses less on social conventions and more on human relationships. This form of satire mostly addresses pedants, fanatics, cranks, upstarts, virtuosos, enthusiasts, and incompetent professionals.

Satire and Literary Techniques

Complementary techniques of literature are frequently adopted to obtain the greatest effect in satire. Let’s look at the most common ones that satirists apply in their works, making fun of the characters:

  • Verbal irony. Words have been used that help to express a thought in a way that is not literal. Satirists often choose to use it to show the stupidity of the character.
  • These are people or objects from a time that is different from where the main action of the work unfolds. Satirists may use anachronism to demonstrate how disconnected the subject is from society.
  • It imitates a literary style to enhance the humorous effect.  It is used to attack literary conventions and traditional rhetorical forms, often exaggerating basic genre characteristics to ridiculous or nonsensical levels.
  • The technique helps to understate the size, importance, or quality of something.
  • Using it, the author can exaggerate the size, meaning, or quality of the characters or objects being described.
  •  This is a special literary technique by which the author can place two objects side by side to emphasize the contrast between them.
  •  It has a humorous nature and is often unintentionally used instead of certain words similar in sound. Such errors in speech cause a certain awkwardness, so it helps to portray characters as silly by giving them inadequate phrases.

There are many more options. Additional information about techniques and terms can be found on specialized sites devoted to literature. All nuances that may be interesting and useful are given here.

Satire Examples in Literature

Satire is a perfect way for writers to communicate public comments. Today, there are many literary works that criticize and ridicule society, certain people, or humanity in general. They are written by authors who are recognized by the world community.

The work of George Orwell, “1984,” is an excellent example of juvenile satire to be found in the literature. The novel contains some political satire to focus interest on the drawbacks and perils of the totalitarian administration. Other classic works are “Fahrenheit 451” and “A Clockwork Orange.” Other examples of satire are such famous works as “Gulliver’s Travels”, “The Kidnapping of the Castle,” “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “Don Quixote,” and many others.


Satirical authors use humor when writing their works to point out several existing important problems and criticize certain elements of society. The main purpose of such actions is the hope that public opinion will be changed and that the people being laughed at will realize all their mistakes and be able to find a fast way to improve themselves. Thanks to the variety of forms of satire, it is possible to express your view of a situation through the prism of humor or directness. It is actively used not only by literary figures but by the people around us as well.

Join The Discussion