Parody

Definition and Examples of Parody

Parody (derives from the Greek word parōidia, literally means “counter-song”), is a literary composition that imitates the styleOpens in new window of another work in the manner that ridicules the original. In literature, parodies are used to criticize and poke fun at something. By imitating the very thing (the parodied text or object), an author can criticize something in a humorous way.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines parody as:

  • A composition in proseOpens in new window or verseOpens in new window in which the characteristic turns of thought and phrase in an author or class of authors are imitated in such a way as to make them appear ridiculous, especially by applying them to ludicrously inappropriate subjects, an imitation of a work more or less closely modelled on the original, but so turned as to produce a ridiculous effect.

Most people understand parody as the practice of mocking a set of conventions familiar to a contemporary audience.

Parodies make fun of existing beliefs or accepted views about someone or something, and in order for parody to achieve its purpose, the audience must be cognizant with the original art.

Unlike the SatireOpens in new window, which suppresses its object of target, parody, “makes the object of attack part of its own structure” (Ibid. p. 35).

Examples of Parody

The first piece is a parody of the popular English lullaby by Jane TaylorOpens in new window. – (as qtd. in Xiuguo Zhang’s English Rhetoric); whilst the second, is a parodic version of Austen’sOpens in new window classic, imitated by Seth Grahame-SmithOpens in new window.

Parody By: Lewis CarrolOpens in new windowSource: A famous English lullaby (Twinkle, Twinkle, Little StarOpens in new window)
By Jane TaylorOpens in new window
Twinkle, twinkle, little bat,
How I wonder what you’re at!
Up above the world you fly
Like a tea tray in the sky.

— (Lewis Carrol, Alice in Wonderland)
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky!
— (Jane Taylor)
Parody By: Seth Grahame-SmithOpens in new windowSource: Pride & PrejudiceOpens in new window,
By Jane AustenOpens in new window
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”
— (Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith)
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
— (Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice)

Parody can be seen in works of literatureOpens in new window, advertisingOpens in new window, newspaper, etc., as it’s a major tool for writers, and orators.

Important Hint! 

Parody presents an image of the original work, and this duplicate calls attention to the underlying person or text being represented, thus facilitating critical reflection in audience members. But the audience must first recognize both the original work and the object of ridicule as a means to critique the former and appreciate the latter.

Further Readings:
Literary Terms | ParodyOpens in new window
Xiuguo Zhang, English Rhetoric | ParodyOpens in new window
Elizabeth Benacka, Rhetoric, Humor, and the Public Sphere: From Socrates to Stephen Colbert | ParodyOpens in new window
The Oxford English Dictionary, (Oxford: Clarendon, 1961).
S. Barnet, M. Berman and W. Burbo, ed, A Dictionary of Literary Terms (London: Little Brown and Company, 1964).