Cynicism and Satire

Both cynicism and satire decry man’s foibles. However, satire tries to shame people into change while the cynic believes man can never change. Another way to look at it is that while the difference between being a cynic and a satirist is almost non-existent at times, a satirist has the attitude of righteous indignation while a cynic holds one of bitterness.


Cynicism is characterised as a general distrust of anything: person; society; government; belief systems. It derives from the Greek philosophy as practiced by the “Cynics”, a group who saw their purpose in life was to live simply and with nature, and free from possessions (in contrast, say, to materialism, power, sex and wealth). By extension, in modern times, the cynic is one who questions much and doubts often. Of course, a cynic may well use irony, sarcasm and satire to make a point!


Satire is a cynical contempt of sophistication and luxury; bluntness of speech; to sneer at goodness; it tears off the veil from human weakness. Satire is:

  • The branch of literature constituting such works.
  • A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit.
  • Satire may be a composition to discourage vice or folly, to ridicule a person guilty of it. It may make use of ridicule, sarcasm or irony.

Also consider:

Satirical – given to the use of cynical observation of others.

Sardonicdisdainfully or ironically mocking.

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By Nigel Benetton, science fiction author of Red Moon Burning and The Wild Sands of Rotar

Last updated: Friday, 24th April 2020