Mark Twain will forever be the father of modern satire. Through his work The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn he puts his satirical abilities on display. In this book he writes in an outright manner, exposing the issues of his time. Twain, like many after him, brought light to the social issues around him by creating absurd scenarios.

Twain pokes at the southern aristocracy by pointing out the absurdness of the situations they get themselves into. In chapters 17-18 Huck encounters two families in a dispute with each other. These families are not just in any ordinary dispute though, rather a feud. The absurd part about the situation is that neither family knows why they are in the dispute in the first place. Instead of figuring out why they are in a feud they ride around the island they both live on killing members of the enemy family. To add to the passage Twain alludes to Romeo and Juliet by having two forbidden lovers from either side of the family run off together. This event, like in the famous play causes a major war to break out between the two families escalating the pre-existing conflicts.

Twain also satirizes the romanticism at the time. In this section, “and I see in a minute it was worth fifteen of mine for style…” (208), Twain points out the backwardness of romantic writing. The audience can clearly see that Huck has the better idea but that the plan presented by Tom, who is representing romanticism, is more flamboyant.Twain makes Tom’s romantic plan so flamboyant and absurd that Tom ends up getting shot. The audience can see that if it weren’t for Tom’s lust for adventure Huck could have saved Jim from slavery and escaped easily. By Twain exposing the convolutedness of romanticism he helped to point out that the times of high adventure were not only unrealistic but also over. Twain’s refutation of romanticism indicates that he found issue with the frame of thought that society in his time was in and he found satire as the best way to comment on this.

Twain’s witty use of satire extends into modern media today. I have not even scratched the surface of the amount of times Twain used satire in his book. This points out some major things about satire: it can extend to every facet of human life, it has its place in writing, it is a way to communicate the issues of today in an entertaining way. Today we can still feel the influence of Twain through shows like Family Guy, The Simpsons, or Saturday Night Live who point out social issues of every kind through satire. We can experience the absurdness of life through the writings of The Onion or David Sedaris. Or we can tune in to watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart or The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Satire has definitely not phased out of mainstream media. It has grown into one of the most effective tools of communication.

The influence of Twain will be felt for generations to come. His use of satire shined in his book  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn making him the father of modern satire. Now it is no longer a question of whether satire will survive, but how will satire develop in the future? Does anyone have an opinion on the role of satire in mainstream society? Does anyone agree or disagree with my assertion of Twain’s role in the development of satirical writing?


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CC BY-SA 4.0 Is Twain the Father of Modern Satire? by Evan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

1 Comment
  1. Zachary 3 years ago

    Hey there, Evan-
    Intriguing analysis of Twain’s usage of satire that you’ve made here. Overall, I’d say it’s well thought out; your analysis skills seem to be superb. However, after reading “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
    and seeing the ending remove all forms of moral dilemma, I can’t help but wonder: was the book truly a satirical novel, or did he just write it for fun? I tend to lean towards the latter.
    I believe, however, that satire indeed has a solid usage in the modern day. In fact, I find it to be one of the best ways of getting a point across quickly when it comes to subjects such as politics. However, I also find it to be ineffective in giving a truly insightful look into things- it tends to rely heavily on anecdotes and strawman arguments, which promptly fall apart under scrutiny as being illogical. Rather than use satire to get a point across, I believe it is better to get a point across using a more logical, albeit slower, method of making a point, rather than pointing a finger and laughing.
    Thank you for this post.


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