Definition of Sarcasm
Sarcasm is derived from French word sarcasmor and also from a Greek word sarkazein that means “tear flesh” or “grind the teeth”. Somehow, in simple words it means to speak bitterly.
Generally, the literal meaning is different than what the speaker intends to say through sarcasm. Sarcasm is a literary and rhetorical device that is meant to mock with often satirical or ironic remarks with a purpose to amuse and hurt someone or some section of society simultaneously. For instance:
“I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.” (Mark Twain)
Types of Sarcasm
Sarcasm often depends upon the voice tone. There are seven types:
- Self-Deprecating Sarcasm – This category of sarcasm expresses an overstated sense of inferiority and worthlessness.
- Brooding Sarcasm – In this criticism, the speaker utters something polite. However, the tone of his speech has a marked bitterness in it.
- Deadpan Sarcasm – It is expressed without emotion or laughter making it difficult for the listener to judge whether the speaker is joking or mocking.
- Polite Sarcasm – A speaker is said to have delivered a polite sarcasm when his listeners only get to realize that his kind remark was a sarcastic one after they had given it some thought.
- Obnoxious Sarcasm – This kind of sarcasm makes people feel like punching the speaker in the face. It is not very funny and it gets under your skin.
- Manic Sarcasm – This type of sarcasm is delivered in an unnatural happy mood that it makes the speaker look like he has gone crazy.
- Raging Sarcasm – This kind of sarcasm relies mainly on exaggeration and violent threats.
Examples of Sarcasm in Literature
There are so many examples of sarcasm in literature, just have a look at some of these:
“Friends, countrymen, lend me your ears.”
(Julius Caesar by Shakespeare)
Mark Antony repeatedly uses the phrase “honorable man” In this speech several times, talking of Brutus’ actions (who has murdered Caesar) were nothing except honorable. His repetition of this phrase completely reverses the literal meanings of the phrase.
“Thrift, thrift, Horatio! The funeral bak’d meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.”
(Hamlet Act 1 Scene 2, by Shakespeare)
The most disturbing issue to Hamlet in the play is his mother’s marriage to his uncle. While talking to Horatio in a sarcastic manner, Hamlet sums up the ridiculous affairs using this statement.
“Good fences make good neighbors.”
(Mending walls by Robert Frost)
This line points out in a sarcastic way two neighbors who have made a wall between them. However this wall falls apart every winter, therefore the neighbors meet and mend this wall, hence they spend more time together in this way.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
(Road not taken by Robert Frost)
The poet is talking about two roads, one is less traveled by and one is chosen by the majority. He had taken the less-traveled one. He uses sarcastic remarks that he feels regret for having chosen this path or road which made a difference.
A FRERE ther was, a wantown and a merye,
A limitour, a ful solempne man,
So muche of daliaunce and fair langage.
He hadde maad ful many a mariage
Of yonge wommen, at his owne cost.
Ful wel biloved and famulier was he
With frankeleyns over-al in his contree,
He wiste that a man was repentaunt.
For many a man so hard is of his herte,
(Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer)
Here Chaucer describes the character of friar in a sarcastic manner, he is a clergyman, who accepts bribes from wealthy people of the town .He uses money on merry making and women that he takes from confessions; and doesn’t care about the people.
“Wherefore art thou, Romeo?”
(Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare)
This is the central conflict in this play, when Juliet sarcastically asks Romeo that why his name is Romeo since they could never be together as their families were enemies.
Function of Sarcasm
Sarcasm can be used for many purposes. However, in most of the cases, it is utilized as a mask or scathe. Others use it as a defensive mechanism. It is used when bitterness is hard to express in a pleasant way or the objective is to say something without hurting somebody directly. The basic purpose of sarcasm in literary works is to bring a flavor in order to make the stories seem real to the readers.