Books: Comedy Versus Satire

Laughter is the truest form of literature – this is what you believe. There are too many tragedies already to find in the world, with too many more trapped still in pages. You seek instead to discover humor, the unexpected wordplay. There shall be no tears for your afternoons, no doomed passions and betrayals. There shall instead only be the certainty of happy endings. So you roam among the aisles, looking for a title that captures your interest. You finally find it, stuffed between the irrelevancies. It is deemed a comedy of manners; but a quick glance through the chapters reveals far darker wits, less obvious scenarios. And you wonder if the book was not somehow misplaced.

It wasn’t.

The difference between comedy and satire is often a blurred one, with the concepts being irrevocably tangled. They are linked. This can’t be denied. They are not, however, the same. And you must understand what they both represent before you can choose a story that appeals to your needs.

Comedy: broadly defining any type of the written word that is intended to amuse, comedy is one of the original categories of literature. Its purpose is to generate grins rather than philosophy; and its structures typically involve unlikely heroes, impossible situations and the intervention of fate. In its purest form, it offers the battle of the individual against overwhelming scenarios (with the conclusion resulting in surprise and absurdity).

Satire: books without the congenial moments and easy questions, yet still able to produce immediate laughter, are known as satires. Though a form of comedy, they are not bound by its established patterns. They are not merely to end gleefully. They are instead to emphasize social conflicts and class differences. Their rhetoric is often harsh, even when disguised to pretty phrases, and their purpose is to expose problems within the world. They are distinct therefore from the more traditional comedy.

And that distinction must be understood. Selecting the appropriate books will depend on your intentions – surreal plots or scathing commentary. The choices are unique and should be recognized as such.

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