The power of literature in determining and affecting behaviors and attitudes of the people behind historically significant change is quite significant. Enlightened philosophe Voltaire’s Candide in addition to Johnathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal and Gulliver’s Travels were works of fiction that had such an effect. Through the use of the literary device of satire, Voltaire and Swift criticized certain aspects of their European society. Furthermore, they did so to a high degree of effectiveness.
While Voltaire was one of the most influential philosophes, his Candide in fact satirized some of the very ideas discussed by his fellow philosophes. To begin, Voltaire’s use of capital letters to suggest the importance of the word he has capitalized is used in a satirical manner, criticizing its importance beneath the surface of the word. For instance, he refers to Candide as being “endowed by Nature with the most gentle character.” This possibly suggests Voltaire mocking the idea of a person being born with some “natural” superiority, a common belief amongst the aristocracy at the time. He continues this satirical attack with his suggestion that the baron’s sister would not marry Candide’s father as a result of his inability to prove more than “seventy-one quarterings,” a method of measuring nobility. In his manner of casually presenting the issue as if it were totally true and exaggerating it, Voltaire underlines the ridiculous nature of such beliefs. In doing so without outright saying it, Voltaire again criticizes the aristocracies attitudes and allows the reader to see how outlandish they are simply through the use of his words. Voltaire’s next subjects of criticism are philosophes, through the introduction of the character Pangloss. Such criticism can be seen in Pangloss’ study of “metaphysico-theologo-cosmolo-nigology”, an obvious attempt to exaggerate the methods of philosophes who use great terminology and complexity in order to suggest their own importance and give weight to issues that should perhaps not be afforded such weight. Voltaire attacks such philosophes’ ideas about God and his role in the universe that the world is perfect because a perfect being created it. Satirizing this aspect of European belief suggests that Voltaire thought such philosophes to be blinded by their optimism and thus unable to see things as they truly are. for instance, Pangloss later admits that he has suffered, but must maintain that everything was for the best whether he believed that in actuality or not.
Voltaire’s satire extends beyond the philosophes and onto the church, state and other such institutions. Candide’s encounter with the Dervish underlines Voltaire’s belief of religious one-sidedness. Instead of listening to Candide and Pangloss’ questions of good and evil in the world and thinking and concluding on his own terms, the Dervish curtly tells them not to consider such things. Voltaire consequently criticizes those in his society that continue to follow such close-minded religious figures by having Pangloss, just rebuked for thinking freely, still be amazed by the very idea that he was able to “discuss” such issues with him. Voltaire’s apparent solution to such problems with humanity – for it is difficult to detect a note of satire in the author’s tone during Candide’s final words – is to live a practical life, working in the figurative garden.
Johnathan Swift similarly uses satire in both A Modest Proposal and Gulliver’s Travels to criticize European beliefs and institutions of the day. A Modest Proposal is a great example of a particularly effective satire as it not only criticizes an idea (in this case, longstanding beliefs in Europe, and especially Ireland, about poverty) but does so in a manner that draws the reader in and allows him to think through the use of satire. The opening passage establishes the poor conditions those in poverty live in, in a sympathetic and reasonable way. By then segueing into the outright grotesque and exaggerated solution for how to deal with such a problem – feed the poor children to the wealthy – Swift immediately causes one to take notice of the severity of such uncaring empires and their attitudes. Thus, exaggeration is again an important device. The notion of who is speaking is also important. While the children in question are Irish, the speaker of the piece is an Englishman. This leads to the object of satire being the tyranny of England and their less than humane approach to dealing with problems such as poverty.
The satire is of those such Englishmen being unaware of the cruelty and coldness in their own behavior, thinking only on behalf of how they can efficiently get logistical problems solved. The narrator in this piece this argues that the cure for Ireland’s economic troubles is to just to have the wealthy eat the poor children. The use of the term “breeders” with regards to the mothers also shows a dark undertone of satire and irony, as the initially sympathetic sounding narrator now equates the mothers with statistics, making him sound rather serious and thus ridiculous due to the eccentric and inhumane idea he has proposed. Such radical ideas, one can conclude, are exaggerations of the types of European attitudes at the time that Swift wished to criticize. In A Modest Proposal, Swift is generally satirizing a great deal of European problems, from the rigidity of government, to injustice to the cold logic of empires without a realistic view of humanity.
Gulliver’s Travels takes a different route in the use of satire of European beliefs. Instead of allowing the reader to interpret the degree of ridiculousness in what a particular character is saying, Swift takes a more straightforward – yet equally effective – approach. This time, it is another character pointing out to the narrator, Gulliver, how absurd the ideals of England are when looked at from a critical perspective. The satire is, in this instance, achieved through Gulliver’s oblivious content to be an Englishman in an ironic contrast with the king’s critical questioning of the same institutions and systems that Gulliver seems proud of followed through to a negative conclusion. Thus, the ultimate object of this work’s satire is the people of England. Swift suggests that they, like Gulliver, for the most part foolishly accept the institutions of England passively and self-satisfied. If Gulliver is indeed to represent the typical Englishman, his naivety in understanding the faults of his own country are to be compared with the benign nature of the people of England, as Swift saw it. Also, Swift aims his criticism at the English government in the king’s questioning of how one is elected to power. He goes on to conclude that the English are quarrelsome people and meddle too far into the affairs of other nations, in a manner suggesting that the king’s thoughts are Swift’s own. The king’s culminating criticism of the English can in effect be credited to the very things Swift is ultimately satirizing: that the entire English system was formed and existed on the worst that cruelty, rage, madness and ambition could create.
Both Voltaire and Swift effectively used the tool of satire as a means of exploiting problems in European society, and forcing them to be noticed as the flaws that they were.
You can also order a custom written research paper, term paper, thesis, dissertation or essay on satire from our professional custom essay writing service which provides high-quality custom papers.
Here’s a list of possible essay topics on satire:
1. Satire in “Huckleberry Finn”
2. “Gulliver’s Travels”: The British Satire of Society Gulliver’s Travels
3. Satire in “Candide”
4. Satire Comparison betweeen “The Rape of the lock” and “Gullivers Travels”
5. Satire in “Connecticut Yankee”
6. Satire on Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock”
7. Satire in “The Emperor’s New Clothes and Inflexible Logic”
8. The Satire in “Animal Farm”
9. Wilmot’s Satire Against Reason and Mankind
10. Targets of Satire in “Dr. Strangelove”
11. Satire on College Admittance
12. Environmental Satire
13. The Relevence of Satires during the Cold War era – A study comparing “Dr. Strangelove” and “Thirteen Days”
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This article will not only explain what a satire essay is, but provide you a tutorial or guide on how to write this type of essay as well as examples.
As the name suggests, this essay uses satire to bring attention to an issue or subject. In our opinion, satirical essays are the most difficult type of essays that students will be asked to tackle in their academic careers. In them, students are not only expected to demonstrate a high level of subject-area and content knowledge, but also be able to employ humor to highlight the absurdities of a real life event or situation. While satirical essays use humor, not all types of humor are appropriate for them. Moreover, they are written in a serious tone, suggesting that the author actually intends the reader to take the suggestions or information contained within the essay seriously.
Fortunately, while initially mastering the writing style needed for a successful satirical essay is difficult, once you have learned how to successfully incorporate humor, hyperbole, and irony into your essays, writing satirically can not only be easy, but also fun.
Understanding the Task
Generally, before you begin any writing assignment, it is important to understand the assignment. Have you been asked to satirize a particular topic or a particular area of culture? How long should your essay be? Are there any technical requirement that you need to know in order to complete your paper? What style should govern your format choices? Do you need to write things in the third person?
You also need to understand satire writing. If you have never read a satirical essay, a great place to start is with Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, which is widely recognized as one of the best satirical essays. The Onion is probably the best well-known modern satire site, where you can find satirical essays on modern political topics.
With satire, you may be able to write the essay from the perspective of a first-narrator other than yourself. This opens up entire avenues of possibilities and lets you bring cultural and social elements into essays about other topics. For example, we are writing this article in the wake of Trump’s leaked Access Hollywood tapes, which contained Trump saying things broadly considered demeaning to women. A response to that response is a meme suggesting that women should not be able to say they are offended by his words because of the success of author E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Gray trilogy, which depicts a romantic (or at least sexual) relationship between a very controlling male and a female who willingly submits to him. A timely satirical essay would address the issue from the perspective of James’ main male character in that series, Christian Grey. The Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte was recently in trouble for saying he had been robbed, when the evidence seems to support that he was the actual wrong-doer. Writing your essay from the perspective of Ryan Lochte giving advice to Kim Kardashian-West after her recent robbery in Paris would be another way to effectively use a third-person narrator to increase the amount of satire in your work.
“The Onion” satire news website
Satire Essay Topics
While you can write a satirical essay on almost any topic, they are best-suited to major political or cultural events. Therefore, appropriate topics for satirical essays can change frequently, to reflect political, social, and cultural concerns. Some ideas for satirical topics would be:
- Border walls
- Donald Trump
- Hillary Clinton
- Mike Pence
- Tim Kaine
- Barack Obama
- Paul Ryan
- Michelle Obama
- Immigration reform
- Healthcare/ Obamacare
- Kim Kardashian West being robbed in Paris
- Brad and Angelina’s divorce
Brainstorming Satire Essays
Brainstorming can be an effective tool in any type of essay writing situation, but it can play a special role in helping plan a satirical essay. While some essay formats lend themselves to outlines in the initial stages of planning, other methods work well in satire. One tool that we like is the use of the bubble map. A simple tool that can be used at or above the elementary school level, the bubble map basically encourages word association with your topic or topics. They do not necessarily have to be elements you consider satirical, but may just be things that you associate with a particular topic. For example, if you write a bubble map about Donald Trump, you may branch out from it with words like: businessman, married, father, divorced, adulterer, The Apprentice, billionaire, bombastic, orange, Miss USA/ Miss Universe, real estate, Home Alone, and New York City. See how that map simply brings up elements that are associated with Trump. A descriptive essay about a dog might contain a word in the middle, like the dog’s name. The words in the bubbles do not have to be the words you choose to use in your essay, but they should help you flesh out an issue and decide how to approach it satirically.
Satire Essay Thesis Statements
Once you have decided on the topic of your descriptive essay, then you need to write your thesis statement. A thesis statement is a short one or two-sentence statement that gives the reader the goal of your paper and tells them how you are going to achieve that goal. The structure of your thesis statement does not change. However, the plausibility of your thesis statement can be very different in a satirical essay than it would if you were actually proposing a genuine idea.
Some example thesis statements for satirical essays could be:
–The United States should ban the burka because permitting women to wear it threatens the religious freedom of Christians, does not respect women’s rights to bodily autonomy, and sexualizes the female body.
-In order to ensure that your jewelry is safe, you should be inconspicuous about it, store valuable jewelry in a vault or safety deposit box, and never travel with more jewelry than you can wear at one time. (Author: Kim Kardashian-West).
-Building a quality marriage is simple: select your second wife while married to your first, have a number of children together before you get married, and smoke a lot of marijuana. (Author: Brad Pitt).
As the above examples highlight, who is writing the essay can, and often is, one of the most satirical elements of the essay. The intended audience can be part of the satire, as well. Jimmy Carter writing Donald Trump a letter that says he needs to loosen up and not worry so much about offending women would increase the satire because of the reputations both men have. Bill Clinton sending Barack Obama a letter on how to be a better spouse while in office would also have that double-irony factor, since Obama is widely regarded as an excellent husband, while Bill Clinton had an affair in office. Miley Cyrus telling one of the Duggar girls that she was dressed provocatively, Madonna criticizing Lady Gaga for publicity stunts, or Pete Rose criticizing Tom Brady would all utilize this type of double-satire approach.
Satirical Essay Resources
The vast majority of satirical essays draw directly from current events. You may not actually need to cite from these sources when writing your essay, but you will want to be aware of the actual events and issues surrounding a situation. Ironically, you will need to be very aware of which news sites are, themselves, satire. It can be difficult to tell in the modern political context. Therefore, you want to choose an unbiased, academically reliable sources for your information.
The general rule is to use sources that are less than three years old and that come from reputable sources such as academic publications, newspapers, magazines, and .org or .com websites. Sources older than three years are acceptable, but if there have been changes to the information in the intervening period, you want to make the reader aware of those changes.
Furthermore, you may have heard not to use some sources like Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica in your writing. This is good advice; they are not considered to be reputable, scholarly sources. However, do not let that ban keep you from using them when first researching your topic. Both of those resources can provide a great overview of a topic, and h; these resources can actually provide you with excellent information and a list of references you can explore for additional research. Google Scholar’s search engine, which you can limit to specific types of academic or scholarly articles, can also help you find high-quality scholarly or academic writing.
Generic news websites are an additional resource for satirical essays. CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, the major networks and local news stations are all good sources for news. However, the news-dedicated channels also have shows that are not news shows, but political and social commentary. Those shows may present information in a biased manner or present information that is simply not true. You need to be aware of this potential bias when choosing sources.
If you do choose to incorporate sources into your satirical essay, you will want to cite academic sources to back up any assertions you make about a particular leadership style. If you are writing an essay that contains actual figures, dates, or lesser-known facts, you are going to want to cite your sources. You may be instructed which style or format to use, or you may be permitted to choose which format. The three most frequently used academic writing styles for undergraduate level writing are Modern Language Association (MLA), Chicago Manual of Style (also known as Turabian) and American Psychological Association (APA). Unless your instructions specify which format to use, choose the one you find easiest to use or the one that is most appropriate for your subject area. You can use our citation generator and citation guideline article to help ensure your work conforms to your selected style.
“Every 2 minutes an American is sexually assaulted” (RAINN, 2016).
Source Format for References:
RAINN. (2016). Victims of sexual violence: statistics. Retrieved September 30, 2016 from
RAINN website: https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence
Estimates of the number of women raped each year vary from 300,000 to 1.3 million (Chemaly).
Source Format for Works Cites/Bibliography:
Chemaly, S. “50 Actual Facts About Rape.” The Huffington Post. October 26, 2012. Web, 30
September 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soraya-chemaly/50-facts-rape_b_2019338.html>.
“Every 2 minutes an American is sexually assaulted” (RAINN 2016, n.p.).
Source Format for References:
RAINN. “Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics. Accessed September 30, 2016.
Satire Essays Examples
Many people learn by example. Reading one of our sample essays not only introduces you to satirical writing, but can also show you how to correctly format an essay in a particular style. Two of our most popular satirical essays are available in the links below:
Satire in Huckleberry Finn Essay
Satire on Terrorism and the TSA
Satire in the Simpsons
Custom Written Satire Essay
Hopefully, after reading this article and the example essays, you are feeling more confident about understanding and writing a satire essay. However, we know that it can still be very challenging to write one. From picking a topic, to choosing things that seem outrageous, to actually writing the essay; all of it can be overwhelming. We are here to help. Our tutors can help students at any stage in the writing process, whether it is brainstorming ideas or writing a custom example of a satirical essay on your chosen topic. If you want to learn more about this very popular student assistance program, click here.