define  Satire

The definition of satirical writing is writing which uses humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

SATIRE can make people angry... at the satirist! In 1729, Johnathan Swift (of Gulliver's Travels fame) published an essay called A Modest Proposal, a cruel satire designed to raise awareness that the Irish were starving because landlords (mainly English) would give no debt relief - and to shame them into action. He made no accusations -- instead, in honeyed tones, he laid out a scheme for Irish parents to sell their children to the rich to be eaten, thereby earning enough to pay their landlords and supply a nice dinner dish as well. He gave details of how they might be boiled, roasted or baked. Swift got a swift kick in the pants from a public unprepared for satire, many of whom took him seriously.

A few paragraphs will demonstrate the tone.


For preventing the children of poor people in Ireland,
from being a burden on their parents or country,
and for making them beneficial to the publick.

by Dr. Jonathan Swift


It is a melancholy object to those, who walk through this great town, or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads and cabbin-doors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning every passenger for an alms. These mothers instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in stroling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants who, as they grow up, either turn thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country, to fight for the Pretender in Spain, or sell themselves to the Barbadoes.

I think it is agreed by all parties, that this prodigious number of children in the arms, or on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers, and frequently of their fathers, is in the present deplorable state of the kingdom, a very great additional grievance; and therefore whoever could find out a fair, cheap and easy method of making these children sound and useful members of the common-wealth, would deserve so well of the publick, as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.

But my intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the children of professed beggars: it is of a much greater extent, and shall take in the whole number of infants at a certain age, who are born of parents in effect as little able to support them, as those who demand our charity in the streets.

As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years, upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of our projectors, I have always found them grossly mistaken in their computation. It is true, a child just dropt from its dam, may be supported by her milk, for a solar year, with little other nourishment: at most not above the value of two shillings, which the mother may certainly get, or the value in scraps, by her lawful occupation of begging; and it is exactly at one year old that I propose to provide for them in such a manner, as, instead of being a charge upon their parents, or the parish, or wanting food and raiment for the rest of their lives, they shall, on the contrary, contribute to the feeding, and partly to the cloathing of many thousands.

If you haven't read it, it is available free on Gutenburg:

You will note that the devious man doesn't yet say that children of the poor should be eaten by the rich ... he explores all the indignation that many feel at beggars in the street, the unemployed, the grubby children at heel and gets his well-heeled readers nodding wisely in agreement... before he drops his bombshell.

Thus, satire is a way of using humour to make society take a long hard look at itself.  The writer might satirise a person, like a president or prime minister; a group like big businessmen or lawyers or extremists of any religion; an organisation like the Catholic Church or the NRA; or the  nation in general. Rest assured, that jabbing needles into people, pricking their conscience, can have repercussions on the writer.

Writing satire is not easy -- it is too easy to overdo it -- but, today, satire is alive and well, particulary political satire,  and can be found in , books, cartoons, satirical articles, satirical quotes and even on social media such as Facebook.

Here's a fine piece of satire that's been travelling around Facebook.