What is Parody?
A parody is an imitation of the style of something that is deliberately exaggerated to create a comedic effect. Common parodies include imitations of an artist, musician, or writer’s style, or even a type of movie or television genre. The intent of parody is for the audience to recognize the source or original material and find its excessive imitation comical.
Use of Parody in Literature
Writers use parody to call attention to or stress noticeable features of a character, place, storyline, etc., by mimicking it. Parody is usually featured in literature to create a humorous effect, with the understanding that the reader will find the exaggerated imitation to be comedic. As a literary device, parody is typically used with negative intent such as to magnify a weakness of someone or the overuse of something.
Parody Examples in Everyday Life
Example #1: TV Shows of Parody and Satire
In our daily watching of television, we may see extremely hilarious examples of parody in shows that blend parody and satire. Examples like The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and The Larry Sanders Show are renowned for mimicking famous political personalities, and this allows them to target what they think are unintelligent political and social viewpoints.
Example #2: Mimicking Movies
Parody has entered our day-to-day life through hilarious parody movies that mimic famous blockbusters. For instance, the movie Vampire Sucks parodies and pokes fun at the blockbuster Twilight series, which was a film adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s novel Twilight.
Examples of Parody in Literature
Example #1: Sonnet 130 (By William Shakespeare)
William Shakespeare wrote Sonnet 130 in parody of traditional love poems common in his day. He presents an anti-love poem theme in a manner of a love poem, mocking the exaggerated comparisons they made:
“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks…”
Unlike a love-poem goddess, his mistress does not have eyes like the sun, she does not have red lips, nor does she have a white complexion. Her cheeks do not have a rosy color, and her hair is not silky smooth. All the cliché qualities are missing in his mistress. Such a description allows Shakespeare to poke fun at the love poets who looked for such impossible qualities in their beloved.
Example #2: Don Quixote (By Miguel de Cervantes)
Don Quixote, written by Miguel de Cervantes, is a parody of romances written in his day. The main character, Quixote, and his overweight sidekick Sancho, delude themselves to thinking that they are knights of the medieval romances. They believe that they are entrusted with the obligation to save the world. Therefore, the adventure starts as an imitation of the real romances but of course, in a hilarious manner.
We laugh at how Quixote was bestowed knighthood in his battle with the giants [windmills]. We enjoy how the knight helps the Christian king against the army of a Moorish monarch [herd of sheep]. These and the rest of the incidents of the novel are written in the style of Spanish romances of the 16th century to mock the idealism of knights in the contemporary romances.
Example #3: Gulliver’s Travels (By Jonathan Swift)
Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels is a parody of travel narratives, as well as a satire on contemporary England. As the empire of England spread to far off lands, it became a center of navigation and exploration. Adventure and travel narratives telling stories of strange lands became popular.
Example #4: Robinson Crusoe (By Daniel Defoe)
Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was a travel narrative. Swift adopted a similar mode to describe Gulliver’s travels to the strange land of Lilliput, and other such places where he meets “Lilliputians,” and the giant “Brobdingnagians.” He also meets other strange creatures like “Laputians” and “Houyhnhnms,” and the “Yahoos”. The parody for Swift was intended as a satire on English society.
Function of Parody
Parody is a kind of comedy that imitates and mocks individuals or a piece of work. However, when it mingles with satire, it makes satire more pointed and effective. Most importantly, a parody appeals to the reader’s sense of humor. He enjoys the writer poking fun at the set ideals of society, and becomes aware of the lighter side of an otherwise serious state of affairs. Thus, parody adds spice to a piece of literature that keeps the readers interested.