THE BOOKS: Satire
The work of Charles Darwin and his theory of sexual selection is well known as an important step in scientific understanding. But, in the 19th century, satirists around the world felt it was fair game to poke fun at Darwin and his theory. This humorous book satirizes Darwin’s theory from the perspective of a gorilla.
The Children of Mrs. Dominion is a satirical look at the development of Canada in the years leading up to and following Confederation. The children in the book are the young provinces of Canada and the adults are the countries, including Great Britain, the United States and Canada that have an interest in their well-being.
An example of political satire at its best, Grip’s Comic Almanac provided readers with a humorous overview of the year in politics. The almanac includes a humorous month-by-month record of political activity, satirical poetry and political cartoons. The second half of the almanac is advertisements.
Satire is a form of humour that uses irony and exaggeration to criticize or make fun of serious topics. As with most forms of humour, we best understand and appreciate satire when a bit is known about the object of the satire. This is particularly true of political satire, humour that makes light of politics and pokes fun at its serious nature. In some cases humorous periodicals, such as Grip’s Comic Almanac, used political satire not only to make fun of politics and politicians, but to provide an alternative way for the public to understand the issues of the day.
- These documents are considered to be examples of great humour of the time period. Are they funny to you? Why do you think they were meant to be funny? Think of examples of satire within the world of comedy today. How do they differ with satire from the 1800s?
- Look at the illustrations in Grip’s Comic Almanac and in The Fall of Man. How much understanding of the topic do you need to find these humorous? Collect a few political cartoons from newspapers. How much of the humour depends on your understanding of the topic being satirized?
- AS PART OF THE CLASS MAGAZINE: Create an information sheet on satire and a satirical comic strip. For the information sheet, introduce satire by definition and explain what it means using a current example of satire. For each of the documents, describe what is being satirized and provide examples from the text as evidence of this. Include some historical background about the event being satirized. Use the Satire Information Organizer to start you off. For the satirical comic strip, create a comic strip to tell the story of the Children of Mrs. Dominion. Use the Storyboard Organizer to get started and the Comic Strip Template for the final version.