Some writers come up with satire to bash the cognition of their readers to make point of their expression of thoughts. Satire is a technical device to scorn a particular subject, or social issues, or human idiosyncrasy, with the constructive purpose to inspire to reform. However, this is not always true that satire generates upbeat result. Although the blend of sarcasm and irony can act as a credible and noble cause of lasting impression to reform one’s life, the juxtaposing result could, de facto, be an abysmal misery and incurable wound.
Many people write a good number of essays, but only few of them get selected as the best one. Certainly, it does not mean that others are not worth reading and cannot make any impression on their readers. An author creates an ideal character and puts his mind and words into its mouth to speak up his own mind. And the very sharply expressed thoughts of the author bring the characters into life. That is why, only few authors from the throng of writers become a contrast voice that awakes human conscience and stirs lives to make a decent choice.
The English writers, Jonathan Swift and Clive Staples Lewis, aka CS Lewis vented their ire through satirical writings against evil, for instigating perversion of human morality, and human beings for degrading their conscience. Ironically, they both address the impediment that have stimulated humans to engage in immoral and ravaging behaviors like war, depression, abortion, factionalism and so on.
In his satirical essay, A Modest Proposal, Swift expels his escalating provocation at ineptness of Irish politicians, despotism of the English, and hypocrisy and self-indulgence of wealthy people. He introduces the idea of cannibalism to scorn the English along with Irish people and masses who also were equally responsible for the deplorable state of Ireland. People were subjected to the English and had no sense of accountability to stand and speak on behalf of their own people.
Swift describes the plight of starving beggars who had many children to be fed. He presents the startling solution of this problem that will shock his readers. “A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout.” His satirical work draws analogy of cannibalism, how human flesh is traded and eaten, is to give a picture of the insatiable subjugation, inhumanity, and injustice of the English.
He advances his proposal to reveal the failure of Ireland to use its resources along with resolution to the failure. He jests at the deteriorating social norms and values, moral degradation, and political problems in Ireland.
Furthermore, he goes on to propose the solution of economical problem. Swift calculates that the overpopulation and unemployment rate of Ireland can be minified through supplying all one year children to the meat market, so that their parents will not have to bear the burden of feeding and rearing the baby. The meat market idea, according to Swift, seems to be an unshakable resolution to slash famine, hunger, poverty, abortion, and infanticides. The parents will make some money by selling their babies, while they will feed wealthy for “four dishes of excellent nutritive meal”. Thus, family may cease begging after they make some money. Meantime, the wealthy also will earn goodwill among his tenants in the society after serving such a delicacy; nation will abolish famine and starvation and imminent imperative problems.
On comparison between a Modest Proposal and the Screwtape Letters, we find only one abstract contrast between two. While the sardonic and heinous act of cannibalism is univocally told in the Modest Proposal, the Screwtape Letters projects benevolent act of the English man. He offers a cup of tea to the wounded German soldier who lands at the back of his house.
Although Swift deliberates the act of evil, he does not identify evil precisely. He sorts out the consequences of evil. But Lewis comes up with unique perspective on human nature. He proposes that evil manipulates human beings by abusing the common human weaknesses. Later, human beings lose grip of their self-control and let them operate inadvertently to bring evil in the world. Having said this, we can now determine that man was the agent to bring poverty, hunger, famine, abortion, and infanticides that Swift jeers at in Ireland and in the world.
Many Christians believe that posture while praying should not be the issue of spiritual discipline. They label it as legalism; they think that they are breaking the verge of legalism. On the contrary, Lewis puts his absolute opinion to poke at the post-modern Christians who believe that their body has to do nothing with soul. In his words, “At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls.” In this manner, he charges Christians very skillfully for not being serious about spiritual discipline. He also covers about love, sex, pride, and war.
Lewis states that there is high possibility for a man to come back to the Lord during war and other kinds of natural disasters. War, famine, and natural disasters are not necessarily good for Evil. Instead, there is a higher probability that people come to the realization how they are subjected to values and causes higher than their own self and egos. And the “contented worldliness” proves short in the outbreak of hostilities, physical pain, bereavement, and terror. They will return to God and live and die for noble cause.
Every word that comes out of mouth and a bullet discharged from a gun-barrel in the mob never goes in vain. It causes either positive or negative effect on both – the speaker and listener. Same do the satirical works of these two writers produce some reactionary effect on their readers.
When Swift published his satirical essay, A Modest Proposal, the satirical essence of the essay had addressed the social problems like unemployment, poverty, and population. Moreover, he formulates the effect of sin and evil in human life in a unique way by arguing that a six-year old child can normally begin his carrier as thief. And he suggests that a skin out of butchered infant can be made lady’s gloves to point toward the depth of indulgence of human desires and the corrupted ethics of human beings. However, his work did not shock or outrage his contemporary readers. In this sense, his essay was good enough to address the issues of Ireland indifferently but not had impact on the lives of the readers.
Likewise, the Screwtape Letters addresses terror, war, and physical pain and indulgence – love, sex, pride. The way Lewis had spoofed the issues with two-fold conversation between two characters had great impact on its readers. The book has earned a vast of criticism for his satire. We do not see a demon with horned and winged figure roaming around in the book. Above all we see and read is the fallibility of human beings and end result of abuse of human freewill.
After a succinct comparison between these two satirical works of Swift and Lewis, they both have used different rhetorical strategies to speak out their mind clearly to their readers. They approached such a serious subject matter with satire to scoff at sin, instead of sinners. They knew very well that Satan cannot tolerate mockery about him. Therefore, they used satire as a device to deal with sin.
Sometimes, sarcasm and irony produce sense of humor while expressing the core message to its readers. In spite of scornful message to the readers, they find satire witty and jolly. In the meantime it also convicts people of their veiled sin.
Especially the Screwtape Letters has convicted people of their weaknesses and brought them to fruition for repentance to receive the gift of Grace from God. His caustic remark pointed toward the intellectuals that “The fact that ‘devils’ are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination” is one of the examples how he pokes at his readers very sensitively without hurting them, so that they will not refrain from reading his works.
Satire has been an enormous literary mechanism to penetrate the rational intellect for making them know their present situation of their inner and outer being. Blending sarcasm and irony surely provoke response from the readers. When this juicy blend convicts people, their pride, gluttony, and indulgence come out of them. The end product of the blend will be a plausible effect of ineffaceable impression on individuals who conceive the blend in an affirmative way. Otherwise, it could prove devastating and heartbreaking blend that causes the dark patch into one’s mind and heart which becomes incurable lesion that stings time and again. Thence, effect of sarcasm and irony is deeper than hurt caused by sharp knife.