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Introduction: Understanding Satire

Ruben Quintero

Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405119559.2007.00004.x


But still, despite our cleverness and love, Regardless of the past, regardless of The future on which all our hopes are pinned, We'll reap the whirlwind, who have sown the wind. (Timothy Steele, “April 27, 1937”) If, at the end of Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story “Young Goodman Brown” (1835), the “darkly meditative,” aging, and “distrustful” protagonist, believing he once saw his Salem neighbors and newlywed wife (“Faith”) cavorting in a witches' Sabbath one wild night in the forest, had chosen to take up the quill instead of bitterly retreating from life, he would have written satire. For satirists do not wither in despair but, on the contrary, feel compelled to express their dissent. Juvenal is as typical a satirist as he is a great one for being so singularly dissatisfied and wanting to tell others about it. Living in an imperial Rome that has thoroughly surrendered its former republican glory, he tells his readers from the outset that it is difficult for him not to write satire ( difficile est saturam non scribere; Satires 1.30). Indignant, he must speak out against the decadence and corruption he sees all about him. Thus satirists write in winters of discontent. And they write not merely out of personal indignation, but with a sense of moral vocation and with a concern for the public interest. In his second “Epilogue to the Satires” (1738), Alexander Pope's poetic speaker ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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