What is a Caricature? Definition, Examples of Literary Caricature

Caricature definition: A caricature refers to when a character’s central traits are exaggerated to the point of ridiculousness.

What is a Caricature?

A caricature is a character whose major traits are exaggerated to the extreme. This extreme exaggeration makes the character seem ridiculous to the reader of the text.

Caricature Example

Often times when people think of caricatures, cartoon drawings come to mind as examples. Many caricatures were drawn of the former President George Bush, and in these pieces, the artists over exaggerated his traits such as big ears to the point of being humorous.

Modern Examples of Caricature

In the Disney movie Frozen, the character Olaf could be identified as an example of a caricature. Olaf’s naivety is exaggerated to the point where it creates humor for the audience. For example, when he sings “Summer”, he makes such comments, as he will be a “happy snowman”. This is humorous because the audience is aware that snow melts during the summer.

Another modern example of caricature can be seen in the movie Hook starring Robin Williams as Peter Pan. In this film, the evil character Hook could be labeled as a caricature. His evil, conniving ways are overly exaggerated in the film in order to create a great dislike for the character in a more humorous, less scary manner in order to appeal to a younger audience and retain the good-hearted mood of the story.

The Function of Caricature in Literature

Caricatures in literature allow for writers to overly exaggerate traits of a character in order to have an effect on the reader. Because characters often seem ridiculous due to the over exaggerations provided by the author, this usually creates a humorous mood for the reader.

Examples of Caricature in Literature

In John Kennedy Toole’s satirical novel A Confederacy of Dunces, the entire cast of characters could be labeled as caricatures. Each one is overly exaggerated in order to create a humorous yet poignant social commentary. The central character, Ignatius Reilly, is a caricature and overly exaggerated in many ways including his obesity:

“I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.”

Another example of a caricature is found in the satire Animal Farm written by George Orwell. In this novella, the animals in the story are symbolic of Russians during Communist Russia. The leaders of the animals are the pigs, and by creating the caricature of a pig to represent a Russian leader, it shows the extreme negative outlook Orwell had towards these historical figures because pigs are often associated with dirtiness and greed.

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

Summary: What is Caricature?

Define caricature in literature: In summation, a caricature is a character whose central traits are overly exaggerated in order to create an effect for the reader.

Final Example:

In HBO’s hit new show Vice Principals, the main character, Assistant Principal Gombe, is a written as a caricature. His over exaggerated qualities such as ruthless rule following and inappropriateness with female teachers allows for several comedic situations.