ENGLISH 4: MODULE 04: LESSON 09 INTRO: UNDERSTANDING SATIRE
Satire Animation—Text Version
This satirical animation shows the day in the life of a high school student.
We see the sun rising very early in the morning and hear a rooster crowing. The sleepy student gets out of bed and falls onto the floor in his stupor.
The clock is ticking and the student makes himself breakfast. The drowsy student pours cereal into the bowl, but accidentally pours juice instead of milk into the bowl. He takes a bite and gags on the cereal juice combination. An arm reaches out and pulls him away from breakfast.
We see an image of a school. The student is now in class. The evil-looking teacher uses a pointer to point to a chalkboard that has incredibly long notes written on it. The student furiously tries to copy the notes down, but the teacher starts erasing the chalkboard. The student says in desperation, “No. ahhhh.”
The chalkboard now reveals the homework which is an extremely huge assignment. The student grows more anxious and tries to copy down the amazingly long assignment and falls out of his desk in shock.
It is now lunchtime in the cafeteria. The student is seen at the lunch table with two other students. They are eating horrible-looking green food. All of the kids are disgusted with the food and are gagging from the taste.
The bell rings and we hear the sounds of students rushing to their next class.
The student is seen on his knees outside the closed classroom door screaming, “No. ahhhh.” There is a note on the door that says, “If you are reading this sign, then you are late. Please report to bathroom detention!”
We see the student plunging a toilet in bathroom detention. All of a sudden a tentacle comes out of the toilet bowl. The tentacle grabs and sucks up the student shaking him to and fro.
What Is Satire?
“Every joke is a tiny revolution because it upsets the established order…to be funny, indeed, you have got to be serious.”
Satire uses humor to make us laugh and then think. Unlike comedy, where laughter is the end goal, satire goes a step further and uses laughter to cause some sort of change.
The goals of satire are:
to poke fun at human institutions like government or education, or at human weaknesses like greed, jealousy, or impatience
to promote change and improve humanity
The tone of satire can be:
lighthearted and amusing
outraged and disdainful
Note: Satire does not offer suggestions or a plan for improvement; instead, it acts as a spotlight, illuminating the weakness or issue.
A variety of humor devices are used to develop satire, including:
Satire in Poetry
Recall what you have learned about sonnets. They are lyrical love poems that express deep feeling and emotion. Keep that in mind as you read Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130”:
Satire in Poetry—Text Version
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun,
Coral is far redder, than her lips red,
If snow is white, why then her breasts are dun(a dull gray-brown color):
If hairs are wires, black wires grow on her head:
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks,
And in some perfumes is there more delight,
Then in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know,
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet by heaven I think my love as rare,
As any she belied(disguised) with false compare.
Look for phrases that tell you this isn’t your average love poem. Once you think you have identified them, check your understanding.
Use the definitions of the humor devices used to create satire to determine what strategy Shakespeare employed in this sonnet. Which device did he use?
Look again at that ending couplet of this sonnet. What do these lines tell you about the true intentions behind Shakespeare’s nontraditional approach?
Satire in Politics
Political satirists from the earliest days of government have used humor to draw attention to perceived issues and deficiencies. Often these criticisms come in the form of images and illustrations. View some examples of biting political satire in this slideshow:
Satire in Politics—Text Version
[Image of Mardi Gras reveler wearing sign that says ‘Hey brother – can you spare a trillion dollars $’]
This example shows a use of wit, burlesque, and caricature. Select each term to see how it is used.
Satire and Society
You’ve seen examples of satire used to question exaggerated views of love, and examples used to highlight political issues. Satire is also used to comment on societal notions. Many satirists will use humor to draw attention to flaws in social norms that have become so commonplace that no one really notices them anymore. For instance, it has become commonly assumed that the color blue is for boys and that boys play with trucks. The color pink is for girls and girls play with dolls. A satirist might create a pink truck to highlight these views and call them into question.
Read these excerpts from Mark Twain’s “Advice to Youth.” As you read, look for examples of satirical techniques used and try to determine Twain’s underlying message.
Satire in Society—Text Version
[ Image – Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) by Harry Furniss ]
Being told I would be expected to talk here, I inquired what sort of talk I ought to make. They said it should be something suitable to youth–something didactic, instructive, or something in the nature of good advice. Very well. I have a few things in my mind which I have often longed to say for the instruction of the young; for it is in one’s tender early years that such things will best take root and be most enduring and most valuable. First, then. I will say to you my young friends–and I say it beseechingly, urgingly–
What humor device is employed when Twain uses the adverbs “beseechingly” and urgingly”?
Always obey your parents, when they are present. This is the best policy in the long run because if you don’t, they will make you. Most parents think they know better than you do, and you can generally make more by humoring that superstition than you can by acting on your own better judgment.
Which of these best describes the humor devices used by Twain in this paragraph?
Wit, irony, and parody
Hyperbole, understatement, and wit
Caricature, parody, and farce
Be respectful to your superiors, if you have any, also to strangers, and sometimes to others. If a person offends you and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not, do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick. That will be sufficient. If you shall find that he had not intended any offense, come out frankly and confess yourself in the wrong when you struck him; acknowledge it like a man and say you didn’t mean to. Yes, always avoid violence; in this age of charity and kindliness, the time has gone by for such things. Leave dynamite to the low and unrefined.
Which of these elements provides further evidence that Twain is offering satirical advice? Highlight the correct answers by selecting them from this list.
Be respectful to your superiors, if you have any
Do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick
Come out frankly and confess yourself in the wrong when you struck him
Acknowledge it like a man and say you didn’t mean to
Yes, always avoid violence; in this age of charity and kindliness
Now as to the matter of lying. You want to be very careful about lying; otherwise, you are nearly sure to get caught. Once caught, you can never again be in the eyes to the good and the pure, what you were before. Many a young person has injured himself permanently through a single clumsy and ill-finished lie, the result of carelessness born of incomplete training. Some authorities hold that the young ought not to lie at all. That of course, is putting it rather stronger than necessary; still, while I cannot go quite so far as that, I do maintain, and I believe I am right, that the young ought to be temperate in the use of this great art until practice and experience shall give them that confidence, elegance, and precision which alone can make the accomplishment graceful and profitable. Patience, diligence, painstaking attention to detail–these are requirements; these in time will make the student perfect; upon these only, may he rely as the sure foundation for future eminence…A final word: begin your practice of this gracious and beautiful art early–begin now. If I had begun earlier, I could have learned how.
Think of the advice traditionally offered to students as they prepare to enter the “real world.” How does Twain play on that with this advice?
[ Text box ]
But I have said enough. I hope you will treasure up the instructions which I have given you, and make them a guide to your feet and a light to your understanding. Build your character thoughtfully and painstakingly upon these precepts, and by and by, when you have got it built, you will be surprised and gratified to see how nicely and sharply it resembles everybody else’s.
The closing of Twain’s advice hits home the intention behind the satire. Which of these best describes the notion Twain is drawing into the spotlight?
He points out that advice often given to youth by their parents is sound and worth following.
He points that advice typically given to the youth is designed to make them all conform to the same ideal.
He points out that advice should be followed by youth if they intend to be successful in the future.
He points out that advice should only be offered by superiors who are good at lying.
Satire and You
Imagine the speaker at your graduation ceremony giving a commencement address that sounded something like this:
“You are not special. You are not exceptional.”
“Contrary to what your u9 soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh-grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers, and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you… you’re nothing special.”
“Yes, you’ve been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped. Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you, and encouraged you again. You’ve been nudged, cajoled, wheedled, and implored. You’ve been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie. Yes, you have. And certainly, we’ve been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs. Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet. Why, maybe you’ve even had your picture in the Townsman! And now you’ve conquered high school… and, indisputably, here we all have gathered for you, the pride and joy of this fine community, the first to emerge from that magnificent new building…”
“But do not get the idea you’re anything special. Because you’re not.”
In this lesson, you have explored satire in a variety of formats and learned about some of the humor devices used to create it. Now, you will demonstrate your understanding of satire by completing two tasks. The first task is an analysis of Twain’s and McCullough’s addresses. The second task is locating and analyzing an example of satire.
Use the Understanding Satire worksheet to complete your work.
Re-read each speech for your analysis.
Twain’s speech “Advice to Youth”
McCullough’s speech “You’re not special”
Your worksheet will be evaluated according to the Understanding Satire rubric.
Part A: Twain and McCullough
Provide supporting evidence from the texts (below) to support your responses to these questions. Use complete sentences in your responses.
What is the issue Twain is satirizing?
What is the issue McCullough is satirizing?
What techniques does McCullough use to create his satire?
How effectively do the techniques used communicate Twain’s position?
How effectively do the techniques used communicate McCullough’s position?
How are the messages communicated by Twain and McCullough similar?
Which message could you relate to more? Explain why in a minimum of three sentences.
Part B: Search for Satire
Use the guided analysis exercises within the lesson as a model for this part of the assignment.
Locate an example of satire. Copy and paste it here, making sure to note the source where you found it in a proper citation.
(Possible sources include television shows, humor magazines, the op/ed section of the newspaper, movies, comic strips, songs, and internet memes.)
What human institution or human weakness is satirized in this piece?
Identify and explain the types of humor devices used to create satire.
How effectively do the techniques use to communicate the creator’s position?
Evaluate the overall effectiveness of the satire. Explain your reasoning in a minimum of three sentences.
Next, we see the student opening his locker. He grabs an enormous backpack from his locker. He pulls and pulls with all his might finally yanking the backpack, which is twice his size, out the locker. He struggles to get the heavy bag on his back.
The student returns home. It is now evening. We see him at his desk amidst a mile-high stack of papers anxiously working on his homework. The sun rises once again, the rooster crows, and another day begins.
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