Thesis statement: In the satire “A Modest Proposal,” Jonathan Swift addresses a problem that is extremely serious on a grand scale and uses a somber tone to present his solution; however, in the parody “An Innocent Proposal,” Benjamen Pewitt refers to a less significant concern and his plan to fix it is meant to be hilarious. I. Problem A. Swift B. Pewitt II. Solution A. Swift B. Pewitt Most people have watched and probably laughed at the television series South Park or the movie Spaceballs. These are two great examples of satire and a parody.
Satires and parodies are created in all kinds of formats from movies and television shows to music, books, and plays. One of their main purposes is to entertain the audience, and most of the time they are extremely humorous. But they are also created for very specific reasons. For example, the Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines satire as "a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn. " An example is in an episode of South Park when Stan’s girlfriend breaks up with him because his Facebook status is single. This makes fun of America’s obsession with Facebook.
As further noted by Merriam-Webster a parody is “A literary or musical work in which the style of the author or work is closely imitated for comic effect or in ridicule. ” Spaceballs is a great representation of this definition because it mocks Star Wars, and the entire plot for the movie is based on Star Wars. In the satire “A Modest Proposal” Jonathan Swift addresses a problem that is extremely serious on a grand scale and uses a somber tone to present his solution; however, in the parody “An Innocent Proposal” Benjamen Pewitt refers to a less significant concern, and his plan to fix it is meant to be hilarious.
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Swift’s home country, Ireland, is in a dire state of need, and they are becoming desperate. People’s lives are at stake if significant obstacles are not soon overcome. Jane E. Aaron, the author of the textbook 40 Model Essays, best summarizes the situation by writing, “Several years of crop failures had resulted in widespread starvation among the Irish poor, yet the government of England…and the well-to-do Irish had done nothing to help” (356). This reveals the causes of this disaster. Swift illustrates the severity of the problem when he states, "It is a melancholy object to . . see the streets, roads, and cabin doors, crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags and importuning every passenger for an alms" (357). This really paints a picture of how disgusting the streets of Ireland are becoming. Swift talks about how this is ruining the future of Ireland when he says these poor children of Ireland grow up, and they “either turn thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country to fight for the Pretender in Spain, or sell themselves to the Barbados” (357).
Therefore, if this tragedy in Ireland is not soon fixed, then the Irish society may collapse. In contrast, Pewitt writes about a minor problem occurring in high schools everywhere, which is the public display of affection. In a truly accurate assessment, Pewitt points out, “It is definitely a disgusting sight to see a person pinned to the wall and has become a distraction to both the participant and the innocent passerby” (45). It is indeed highly painful to watch this happen, but nowhere near as hurtful to see women and children stealing and “begging” for food in the “streets of Ireland. Public display of affection is just one of many small disciplinary hurdles for high schools to overcome, on the other hand the obstacle in Ireland is the main concern for the future of the entire country. Another statement that demonstrates the level of difference between the two problems is when Pewitt opens his essay by insisting “High school administrators, react now and save many minutes of valuable time and reduce your stress level tremendously” (45). Pewitt is concerned with teacher’s free time and “stress level,” however Swift is trying to save the entire country of Ireland from “widespread starvation.
Although public display of affection is not a very pleasant sight to see and is a growing concern in High Schools, it is not nearly a disaster to the same magnitude as a collapsing society. The solution given by Swift in his essay is intended to be taken very seriously. Even though it is not realistic, he uses a very somber tone as he reveals it. His proposal is for his country to actually use the babies in “rags” that are burdens on their mothers to “contribute to the feeding, and partly to the clothing, of many thousands. This way the mothers will have fewer expenses to worry about, and they can actually make extra money by selling their babies for lots of value if they are properly fed for nutritional purposes. Also the whole country would benefit because these babies would help feed many more people since crops are not producing enough. He presents this outrageous claim in such a serious manner in order to get people’s attention, and to show them how desperately they need an answer. He implies they might as well start killing babies if any type of effort is not put forth to help, otherwise people are going to keep dying anyway if nothing else is done.
His somber tone is crucial in his attempt to make the audience aware of the intensity of this tragedy and convince them that action needs to take place soon. On the contrary, the plan asserted by Pewitt seems meaningless therefore is intended more for entertainment. There is no real threat the public display of affection really poses, and it is something that will continue to happen in future no matter what is done. In other words, Pewitt is mocking the work of Swift, and is simply trying to get a good laugh from his audience.
His solution to the public display of affection is an “easily accessible fornication grotto. ” He explains the “grotto” will include “soft beds and couches, and some very low Barry White music to set the mood”(45) and even a “professional advisor” to help coach. This shows how sarcastic Pewitt really gets in the humorous tone he uses. In summary, Swift is genuinely trying to fix a problem which may produce severe consequences by suggesting a ridiculous solution to get people’s attention, and Pewitt parodies his work by sarcastically suggesting the most hilarious plan imaginable.
Swift and Pewitt use two totally different approaches to answering two totally different problems, and they do this for two completely different reasons. Swift attempts to save the country of Ireland with the use of satire. He writes in a somber tone and offers his unrealistic plan of eating babies to get people’s attention and open their eyes to how dire the situation is becoming. This outrageous idea Swift has came up with serves as “ridicule” toward the Irish people for not taking any action.
He is telling them if they are not going to think of something they might as well resort to his plan, because people are dying anyway. Pewitt, on the other hand, presents his “fornication grotto” as a sarcastically ridiculous answer for public display of affection as a parody to the work of Swift. Although, his concern is meaningless in contrast to Swift’s, and this is why his tone is not to be taken seriously. Swift’s satire was written for an extremely important cause, and all Pewitt wants in his parody is a good laugh.
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