Difference Between Irony and Satire

Key Difference – Irony vs Satire
 

Irony and Satire can be understood as two literary concepts that often overlap with one another although there is a key difference between the two. Satire refers to a form of criticism that uses wit and humor. Irony, on the other hand, refers to a technique in which a discrepancy occurs between what is expected and what appears. One of the key distinctions between irony and satire is that irony is a literary device whereas satire is a literary genre. Through this article let us examine the differences between the two concepts while gaining a broader understanding.

What is Irony?

Let us begin with irony. Irony refers to a literary device in which a contradiction occurs between the expectation and reality. Or else, it can even be a contradiction between what says and thinks, or even what is said and understood. This is a technique that is widely used in literature. When speaking of irony, there are many varieties that can be used in different situations to create different effects. They are verbal irony, dramatic irony, situational irony, cosmic irony, historical irony, tragic irony, etc.

Let us look at an example. In Macbeth, King Duncan praises Macbeth for his valor and loyalty all the while Macbeth is planning to murder him. This is an instance of dramatic irony where the characters on stage do not know the truth although the audience does.

Difference Between Irony and Satire

A scene from Macbeth

What is Satire?

Satire refers to a form of criticism that uses wit and humor. This is a specific genre of literature which captures various forms of art such as plays, novels, etc. Satire is used in instances where the writer wishes to emphasize the flaws in a particular situation, condition or even a person. The common objects of satire are people, society, governments and even human qualities. By emphasizing these flaws the writer wishes to create awareness or promote change in a particular context. In this sense, satire has a higher purpose of operating as a constructive criticism. This is why satire can now be seen in television programs such as movies and TV shows as well.

In order to generate satire, writers use various techniques such as exaggeration, ridicule, and irony. There are many types of satire such as Horatian, Juvenalian, and Menippean. It must be highlighted that all forms of satire are not humorous, although some generate humor. Some examples of satire in literature are as follows.

Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal

Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock

Daniel Defoe’s The True-Born Englishman

Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street

Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator

Difference - Irony vs Satire

What is the difference between Irony and Satire?

Definitions of Irony and Satire:

Irony: Irony refers to a literary device in which a contradiction occurs between the expectation and reality.

Satire: Satire refers to a form of criticism that uses wit and humor.

Characteristics of Irony and Satire:

Literature:

Irony: Irony is a literary device.

Satire: Satire is a literary genre.

Relationship:

Irony: Irony is a technique used for satire.

Satire: Satire uses a variety of techniques of which irony is one.

Types:

Irony: There are many types of irony such as verbal irony, dramatic irony, situational irony, cosmic irony, historical irony, tragic irony, etc.

Satire: There are many types of satire such as Horatian, Juvenalian, and Menippean.

 

Image Courtesy:

1. Lady Macbeth Cattermole By George Cattermole, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

2. Invisibles-Tete-a-Tete-poke-bonnet-satire-1810s [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons