Satire and irony are often closely related, but there are important distinctions between the two. A form of criticism, satire uses humor to accomplish its goals. One technique that satire uses is irony. Irony focuses on the discrepancies between what is said or seen and what is actually meant. Simply, satire and irony differ largely because one, satire, often uses the other, irony.
Both satire and irony can be found in literature, television, movies, theater and even in artwork. Satire, however, is a genre, whereas irony is a technique. The term "genre" refers to categories of written or preformed art. Drama, comedy and horror are all various genres.
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Although satire and irony are arguably linked, they are not exclusive to each other. Irony occurs not just in satire but in dramatic and comedic art as well. Likewise, satire also uses many other rhetorical and comedic techniques, such as ridicule, to accomplish its goal.
Satire is a form of comedic criticism. Although it sometimes uses seemingly harsh techniques, its aim is not cruelty but rather to point out faults in government, society, individuals or the human condition. Satire is an attempt to draw attention to these faults, either to encourage a change or to force an awareness. Some of the most famous modern satires occur on television shows.
Just as a comedy uses jokes to make people laugh or an action movie uses explosions to thrill the audience, satire uses irony to make a humorous criticism. There are several types of irony, but they all base their humor in selective, often intentional, ignorance. Using words in an opposite way in which they are intended is, perhaps, the simplest form of irony. For example, saying "It is such a great day for sunbathing" in the middle of a hurricane would be ironic.
In literature and theater, however, dramatic irony generally is used. Dramatic irony occurs when a character is saying or doing something that is in opposition to the reality of the situation. The character generally is ignorant of this fact, but the audience is aware of it. This technique is seen often in movies and plays or in literature.
Socratic irony was used by the Greek philosopher Socrates in his teachings. In this form of irony, the teacher pretends to be ignorant of a topic a student believes to know. The teacher carefully questions the student, all the while pretending that the student is the expert, to bring to light flaws or inconsistencies in the student's logic.