12 examples of humor from literature (+ definition and writing tips) (2023)

When it comes to humor samples, sometimes it's easy to pinpoint exactly what you're looking for.

For example, do you watch a movie that gives you chills... or one that makes you laugh out loud? There is a clear difference in mood.

But what if you are studying a novel or a poem? Defining “mood” can be difficult.

We'll explain what humor is, why it's important, and how you can create humor in your writing. Next, we examine examples of humor from literature,poemsand popular culture.

12 examples of humor from literature (+ definition and writing tips) (1)

humor definition

In writing, humor is the emotion that the author wants the reader to experience. He can think of it as the "feel" of the job. The mood is not necessarily the same throughout the play, and can change abruptly.

The mood is created bymany different literary media and techniques, especially descriptions, images and dialogues. It requires careful control of writing both at the general level of the work as a whole, and at the sentence and word level, with careful use ofsexy words, good choicemetaphors, and more.

Why is humor important when writing?

To understand why humor is so crucial in writing, you need to think about why we read fiction (and poetry) in the first place. After all, we want to feel something. We may want to feel fascinated, moved, nostalgic, or even scared.

The use of modes means that authors can:

Fully engage the reader

By creating strong emotion, the author immerses the reader in the story and makes it almost impossible to stop turning the pages. You will care about the characters and what happens to them because the author makes them feel.

Create a memorable story that will stay in the reader's mind long after you're done

Readers won't necessarily remember the plot twists, or even the names of all the characters... but they will remember how the book made them feel.

Play with established conventions or even challenge them

This can be risky, because if a writer doesn't get it right, the story can fail. But by creating an unexpected mood, such as a fun and silly mood for a high fantasy, or a dark and menacing mood for a story that seems light on the surface, an author can attract readers who want something different.

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Improve other aspects of your work

Perhaps a deceptively cheerful mood contrasts sharply with the events of the novel and reinforces the author's message about the ills of society. Or maybe the wry, goofy humor makes the dialogue and plot even funnier.

How to create humor when writing: 3 practical tips

What if you want to create the right mood in your own text? Can:

1. Choose meaningful details when writing descriptions

When describing a setting, it's easy to get carried away and tell your reader everything. But in order to create a strong mood, you need to focus on some details. Here is an example of the Erin Morgenstern Overturethe night circus, which immediately evokes a mood of mystery, as well as something a little dreamy:

The tall tents are striped black and white, with no gold or purple in sight. No color except the neighboring trees and the grass in the surrounding fields. Black and white stripes against the gray sky; Countless tents of different shapes and sizes, enveloped in a colorless world by an elaborate wrought-iron fence.

2. Create the right rhythm for your sentences

Short, crisp sentences create a completely different mood than long, relaxed sentences. Here's the beginning of Jim Butcherstorm front, the first novel from the Dresden Archives. The short sentences create a tense, expectant mood and establish Harry Dresden's narrative voice.

I heard the postman knocked on my office door half an hour earlier than usual. It didn't sound good. His footsteps grew heavier, lighter, and he whistled. A new boy. He whistled outside my office door and then was silent for a moment. Then he laughed.

3. Use images, metaphors and similes

the cautiousUse of Images, including metaphors andparable, can be a powerful tool for setting the mood. Nick Hornby gets it right in the opening scene ofhow to be good:

'EITHER. Row all the time. Silence. Bad atmosphere. All that... poison.

'Oh. That." Delivered as if poison somehow entered our marriage through a leaky roof and he wanted to fix it.

Examples of humor from literature, poetry and pop culture.

Let's take a look at some more detailed examples of humor from literature, poetry, and pop culture.

examples in the literature

12 examples of humor from literature (+ definition and writing tips) (2)

Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens (1837)

Now and then, when there was a more interesting investigation than usual about a parish boy who had been overlooked in finding a bed, or accidentally scalded to death when there was a wash going on, though the latter accident was very rare, only that a wash was a rarity on the farm: the jury decided to ask awkward questions or the parishioners rebelliously signed a protest. But these outrages were quickly verified by the surgeon's statement and the bailiff's testimony; the former always opened the corpse and found nothing inside (which was very likely), and the latter invariably swore what the community wanted; which was very idiosyncratic.

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On the surface, the tone of this passage is matter-of-fact and rather casual and disinterested, with a hint of humor. However, this is in stark contrast to the theme: young children are horribly abandoned, even murdered, in a local asylum.

Roca de Brighton, Graham Greene (1938)

[Hale] showed his face to the crowd as they passed him over and over, like a piece of twisted wire, two by two, each with an aura of understated, determined joy. [...] With tremendous effort and tremendous patience, they squeezed the grain of joy out of the long day: that sun, that music, the noise of the miniature carriages, the ghost train that plunged between the grinning skeletons under the aquarium walkway. , the Brighton Rock sticks, the paper sailor hats.

The vibe here isn't as cheery as we'd expect from a sunny beachside vacation. Instead, it's drab and dreary, set against an undercurrent of something even darker (note the "smiling skeletons" and the "like a piece of twisted piece of wire" simile).

Am Strand von Chesil, Ian McEwan (2007)

They had just sat down to dinner in a tiny parlor on the first floor of a Georgian inn. In the next room, visible through the open door, was a very narrow four-poster bed, the quilt of which was pure white and spread surprisingly soft, as if it had not been made by human hands. Edward didn't mention that he had never stayed in a hotel before, while Florence was an old lady after traveling a lot as a child with her father. On the surface, they were excited.

Already in these lines of the first page something depressing and even disturbing is indicated in the atmosphere of On Chesil Beach. The description of the bed is haunting, the careful choice of words - especially "shallow" - creating tension.

Examples of moods in poetry.

12 examples of humor from literature (+ definition and writing tips) (3)

Falling in the woods on a snowy night, Robert Frost (1923)

The woods are beautiful, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep

And miles to go before I sleep

And walk miles before bed.

These final lines of Frost's poem evoke a feeling of longing: "The woods are beautiful, dark and deep," but also of determination ("Promises to Keep").

I'm Still Climbing, Maya Angelou (1978)

can you put me in the story

With your bitter and twisted lies

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you can kick me in the dirt

But still I will rise like dust.

Uplifting, witty, and tireless humor resonates in these lines and throughout this poem by Maya Angelou.

Se por Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when it's all around you

lose theirs and blame you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you

But also consider your doubts.

This famous poem by Rudyard Kipling is immensely popular, in part because of the inspiring and motivating, yet challenging, mood it creates.

Examples of humor in pop culture

12 examples of humor from literature (+ definition and writing tips) (4)

One of Us Lies (TV)

12 examples of humor from literature (+ definition and writing tips) (5)

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For most of this clip, the students are bored, frustrated, and a bit sarcastic, but for the viewer, the prevailing mood is one of curiosity: various things being said for which we don't have the full context. At 5:18 there is a dramatic change in mood.

Ethel y Ernest, Raymond Briggs (1998)

Raymond Briggs' comic about his parents' marriage and his own upbringing is sweetly funny, not overly sentimental but endearingly nostalgic about life in Britain between the 1930s and 1970s, both in dialogue and graphics.


12 examples of humor from literature (+ definition and writing tips) (6)

The tone of this clip is quite matter-of-fact ("Oh, Mirabel didn't get one") and funny in many ways ("maybe your gift is in denial"), but there's also something poignant and sad about Mirabel's disappearing present.

humor against Tom

It's easy to confuse humor and tone, but they are two different concepts.

Humorit is how the author wants the reader to feel when reading (or seeing) his work. The mood of a work can be funny, sad, scary, happy, nostalgic, curious, etc.

TONit is how the author, or in fiction, the narrator, thinks about his subject. This is usually closely related to the mood of the play, but there can also be a break.

Here's a deeper dive into the sound:

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Use humor cues to reinforce your writing (and reading).

The next time you read, pay attention to how you feel.

Does the book appeal to you because of the mood it evokes? You may also want to pay attention to your physical reactions: a story can make your heart race or make you laugh, or cry.

Ready to go further? Browse the full pieces we use as examples of humor to see how the author carefully builds, maintains, and changes the mood of a piece. Write down specific words, phrases, and sentences that help set the mood. This will give you a deep understanding of how humor works in writing.


What is the definition of comedy of humours in literature? ›

The comedy of humours is a genre of dramatic comedy that focuses on a character or range of characters, each of whom exhibits two or more overriding traits or 'humours' that dominates their personality, desires and conduct.

What is an example of satire in literature? ›

A famous example of Horatian satire is the eighteenth-century poet Alexander Pope's poem The Rape of the Lock, which, despite its serious-sounding name, was an attempt bring back together two real-life feuding families by humorously exaggerating the severity of the cause of their rift.

How does writer create humour in the story? ›

Writers often use satire to add humor to their stories. Satire is the purposeful use of mockery to expose individuals or society as a whole for their foolishness, corruption or inappropriate behavior. Authors often use satire to make light-hearted political, social or moral statements, so they don't offend readers.

What is an example of moods in a story? ›

The mood of a piece might be funny, sad, creepy, cheerful, nostalgic, curious, and so on. Tone is how the author — or, in fiction, the narrator — feels about their subject matter. This will often be closely related to the mood of the piece — but there can also be a disconnect.

What are the 4 humours in history? ›

Courtesy National Library of Medicine

Greek physician Hippocrates (ca. 460 BCE–370 BCE) is often credited with developing the theory of the four humors—blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm—and their influence on the body and its emotions.

What are the 4 humors Why were they important? ›

Blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile: the body's four humours were believed to control your personality in Shakespeare's day and influenced the way the Bard created some of his most famous characters.

What are two examples of satire? ›

Examples of Satire

If voting changed anything, they would make it illegal. (This uses sarcasm to undermine democracy.) Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation. (This uses exaggeration to highlight the vices of politicians.)

What are the 5 forms of satire? ›

Types of Satire

There are three main types of satirical writing: Horatian satire. Juvenalian satire. Menippean satire.

What are the 4 types of satire? ›

Four Techniques of Satire
  • Exaggeration. The first step to crafting a successful satire is figuring out what you want to exaggerate. ...
  • Incongruity. ...
  • Reversal. ...
  • Parody.

What is comedy of manners in simple words? ›

comedy of manners, witty, cerebral form of dramatic comedy that depicts and often satirizes the manners and affectations of a contemporary society. A comedy of manners is concerned with social usage and the question of whether or not characters meet certain social standards.

What are the two features of comedy of humours? ›

Jonson distinguished two kinds of humour: one was true humour, in which one peculiar quality actually possessed a man, body and soul; the other was an adopted humour, or mannerism, in which a man went out of his way to appear singular by affecting certain fashions of clothing, speech, and social habits.

What are the 4 humours of Ben Jonson? ›

Controlled by key organs, the four "humours" were the choleric, the sanguine, the phlegmatic, and the melancholy - and these could combine to create volatile mixtures.

What are some examples of comedy of manners? ›

Television series such as George and Mildred, Absolutely Fabulous, The Young Ones, and The League of Gentlemen also contain many elements of the genre. Though less common as a genre in American television, series such as Frasier, King of the Hill, Ugly Betty, Soap, and The Nanny are also comedies of manners.


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