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HOW TO COMPLETE
Choose a problem you want to address. This should be something you have some direct or indirect experience with. Do the kids at your school leave the classroom and grounds a mess with trash? Is there a problem with bullying? Or perhaps you want to go bigger and look at a problem in your city or town. Are teens getting in trouble because there are no fun yet safe activities for them to do? The closer you are to the problem the better you writing likely will be.
Create a satirical solution. Remember, the more outlandish your solution is, the more you draw attention to the problem. (Use that hyperbole!!) Your satirical solution should actually fix the problem even if it is completely impossible (eating children means you don’t have to feed them and fixes the problem of overpopulation and starvation… just saying). To make sure you are clear and get credit for your work bold the satirical solution the first time you introduce it in your writing. You do not need to put the explanation or any other mention of the satirical solution in bold—just the first mention. Satire and sarcasm aren’t easy for everyone. By underlining your solution you give a visual cue to your teacher when they are grading your work. This way you can get (at least some) credit even if you aren’t confident in your satirical voice just yet. Also include additional advantages to the solution. Think back to when Swift numbers six different additional advantages to eating children then lists several more in an additional paragraph. You only need one additional advantage, but can you come up with more?
Include all four satirical devices—hyperbole, reversal, irony, and incongruity—in your work. To make sure you get credit for each put the term in parenthesis after the sentence in which it is used. For example: “Everyone should be bullied at least once to make sure they grow strong” (irony). Doing this will make sure you teacher knows you attempted to use the device. If a device is difficult for you and you aren’t sure if your example counts, you may want to consider attempting to use the device more than once being sure to label every attempt. Again, this way your teacher can identify your attempts.
Create a logical and plausible solution to the problem. Think back to A Modest Proposal when Swift says, “Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients,” then proceeds to list eight different solutions to the problem that are plausible and would actually fix the problem of poverty in Ireland. You only need to come up with one viable solution; however, if you have more feel free to list them all. To make sure you earn credit for this attempt put the logical and actual solutions to the problem in italics. By making your solution clear to your teacher your message won’t get lost and you’ll be able to earn credit.
Satire is often confused with parody. Satire is the creation of a new work (words, video, etc.) that makes fun of a problem, usually a problem with humanity. Parody mimics another work to bring attention to the problems in the work (think of Shrek making fun of fairy tales and kids’ movies). The confusion occurs because satire often employs parody as a device. Satire also uses irony, sarcasm, analogy, exaggeration, and reversal to make the point. Let’s take a look at these specific techniques and how they are used in satire.
Hyperbole is extreme exaggeration of a point or real life in order to draw attention to a situation. When you say, “I’m starving,” or, “I could eat a horse,” these are examples of hyperbole. You are exaggerating your hunger to let someone know the seriousness of the level. Think of a political cartoon. Heads and facial features are often extra large to draw attention to the specific issue being mocked. Satire uses hyperbole for the same reason. By over exaggerating the size of the problem or the effects the problem is having on humanity, the seriousness of the problem is brought more clearly into focus.
Reversal is exactly what it sounds like it is—when something is presented in the opposite order of what is expected. If a princess or damsel in distress were to save a knight, this would be an example of reversal. This technique is used to demonstrate to the audience how outlandish the problem or the solutions to the problem actually are. Why do we feel it is ridiculous for a princess to save a knight? Because she is weak and he is strong? Shouldn’t a knight be able to save himself? The reversal of these situations makes the audience question why we don’t think the princess is strong enough or smart enough to save herself. It also call into question why needing help is seen as such a negative thing. Reversal in satire will have the audience questioning their beliefs on the matter presented.
Incongruity is when something absurd or completely out of place occurs. If you chose a red piece of candy thinking it was strawberry or cherry, but the taste ended up being grape, that would be a very mild example of incongruity.The purpose of incongruity in satire is similar to that of hyperbole—to show the ridiculousness of the situation. Incongruity can be used to demonstrate how innappropriate proposed solutions would be or how out of place current views on the topic are. By giving the audience something out of place they don’t expect, the author can keep the attention on the problem presented by the satire. Incongruity can be used to turn the mood of the satire from a humorous or exaggerated explanation of the problem to a more serious and specific solution to the problem.
Irony comes in many forms—verbal, situational, and dramatic. While all three can be employed by satire, verbal is the most common particularly when speaking of satirical literature. Verbal irony is when what is said is the opposite of what is meant. When you have a morning when everything goes wrong but respond with, “Well, today is going great!” when asked, this is an example of verbal irony. Like the prior techniques, irony is used for emphasis. By saying the opposite of the intended message, a satirist (or person authoring the satire) can demonstrate just how much the situation is affecting the audience. By downplaying a negative situation, verbal irony can draw more contrast between the problem and where we would be if the problem were taken care of.