Luther King Jr. S Stylistic Devices Essay, Research Paper
An Analysis of Jonathan Swift and Martin Luther King Jr. s Stylistic Devices
In a satirical essay, Swift uses Rogerian strategy along with other rhetorical tactics such as specific diction, nuclear emphasis, and multiple double meanings to effectively surface the horrific treatment of the Irish by the English aristocracy. Rogerian strategy focuses on the open exchange of ideas directed toward mutual understanding with emphasis on conceding certain points to gain an understanding of the opposition and in doing so gain ground rather than losing it through a hostile exchange of right and wrong (Cooper/Patton 70). Swift carefully organized his essay so the audience, the English Aristocracy, would not recognize it as satire and dismiss it right away. Swift begins with a quasi-believable tone, one of an economist trying to solve a problem. The current deplorable state of the kingdom calculated by Swift consists of one hundred twenty thousand children who need to steel and beg just to remain alive (Swift 298). Many before him tried to provide useful solutions but failed. The Irish now left with nothing but what the English give them suffer mass oppression, the real issue Swift wishes to address.
Swift establishes a mutual understanding with the English from the beginning, an essential part of the careful construction in his essay. He cannot let on the essay will take a dramatic turn after the flip of the second page. Swift does this because he wants to give the impression that he shares the same views on the current condition of the kingdom. He wants the English aristocracy to identify with him and his views. When he states I think it is agreed by all parties in the second paragraph and in the fourth As to my own part maturely weighed the several schemes of other projectors but have found them grossly mistaken in their computation Swifts uses a small bit of Rogerian strategy (Swift 298). First he agrees with them on a small point so they are not hostile when later he states their past proposals have miscalculations. This bit of Rogerian serves the purpose of warming up the audience so they get used to agreeing with Swift and having an open mind to new suggestions much like an opening act does for the nights main act. Swift continues to warm up the audience by recognizing that these children are a charge upon their parents but more importantly to the English a charge upon the parish. All the warming up takes place within the first two pages, an essential part to the effectiveness of Swift s strategy (Swift 298-90). As Swift offers his Modest Proposal we see how ridiculous it is to even fathom eating children but even worse making money off of it. But we still cannot characterize the essay as satirical because he has made no reference to change or exaggeration, the essential ingredients in determining if an essay is satirical. Swifts continues to employ Rogerian tactics to give the appearance of still being on the side of the English aristocracy.
Swift specifically points out the fact that the number of popish infants is at least three to one and an advantage of his still serious proposal will be the lessening of Papist among us (Swift 300). Swift reduces the population from general to a specific religious affiliation and the use of the pronoun us still puts Swift on the English side. Now that Swift has established a mutual understanding he moves to make a suggestion. After stating his computation of nursing a beggar s child and the amount a gentlemen would pay for this child he states the squire will learn to be a good landlord, and grow popular among the tenants (Swift 300). Swift subtly suggests up to this point the squires are not good landlords and not favored among tenants. According to the Rogerian strategy, if Swift were to come right out and say this without the use of concessions the English would have a more hostile attitude, but instead are more apt to consider his point. This marks Swift s first attempt at bringing out a larger issue; the treatment of the tenants by the English aristocracy.
Throughout the essay Swift chooses certain words in specific situations to magnify his underlying intentions. In the phrase we see at the beginning of the essay deplorable state of the kingdom the decision to use deplorable is key to the essay. Deplorable means expressing disapproval of (Swift 298). Swift easily could have chosen a different word, but he specifically chose deplorable because it provides the phrase with double meaning. At the beginning, when Swift sides with the English and their views; the burden put on society by the disgusting number of beggars with children that creep around town bothering every person for alms. But as the essay unfolds we see the phrase really refers to Swift s stance along side the Irish. Together they see the state as deplorable because it is the English oppressing the Irish. Ironic because the English Swifts addresses live in Ireland yet think it is somehow their town. Swift has a specific reason for using the word gentlemen in the paragraph fourteen. I believe no gentlemen would repine to give ten shillings says Swift in attempt to appeal to the English s tendency to see themselves as proper and gentleman like (Swift 300). Double meaning comes back into play when we reach the twentieth paragraph.
Paragraph twenty, small in size but large in meaning, marks a major turning point in the essay. Swift carefully says I have too long digressed, and therefore shall return to my subject (Swift 302). The second double meaning of the essay comes with the word choice of digressed. To digress means to wander from the main theme according to Webster s Dictionary. To the English aristocracy this means he has wandered to far from his proposal. The second refers to underlying meaning that has yet to fully surface. Swift touched on it ever so slightly earlier in the passage when he suggested the landlords could learn to become better. He also alluded to the treatment of the Irish when he said this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for the landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children (300). When Swift says devoured he means because the English have such control over the Irish and have used this control to oppress them so harshly they have literally devoured them. Swift started to address this underlying issue but then digressed away from it by getting too into justifying his friends credibility. He uses this specific word to signal the emergence of the real issue at hand, the oppression suffered by the Irish at the hand of the English aristocracy. Make no mistake; Swift does not abandon his original Rogerian strategy. It still is not absolutely clear his essay takes a satirical approach.
Along with word choice, Swift implements the use of allusions in his essay to establish pathos, empathy with the audience. The first time we see the use of allusion, a reference in literature to a familiar place or person, Swift assures the audience his very knowing acquaintance in London says children will make for good table (Swift 300). The acquaintance did not have to be from London, Swift easily could have used a different location but he chooses London for a specific reason, the English aristocracy makes up his audience. Swift uses a man who goes by the famous Psalmanazar who once lived in London to add credibility to the idea of eating children and getting money for them. The fact Psalmanazar lived in London at one time or another says nothing. Hence, Swift did not have to even mention it, but did so purely to establish a common bond with his audience.
Nuclear emphasis and parallel structure work together toward the end of Swift s essay to leave a certain impression on the minds of the reader. Swift uses the word of to start off nine different sentences in paragraph twenty-nine. Swift uses this to control the audience s thought process while at the same time using nuclear emphasis to control what the audience remembers out of the paragraph. In paragraph twenty-nine Swift calls for no man (to) talk to me of other expedients and then lists off examples of possible remedies carefully placing slightly weaker suggestions first then moving to more powerful suggestions as the paragraph comes to a close (Swift 303). The last two directly state what Swift sees as the problem at hand, of teaching the landlords to have at least one degree of mercy toward their tenants and of putting a spirit of honesty, industry, and skill back into our shopkeepers (Swift 303). Swift purposely puts these at the end so the reader will remember these if nothing else.
Satire is defined as a literary tone used to ridicule human vice with the intent of correcting or changing the subject of satiric attack (handbook 280). Swift certainly ridicules the human vice or immoral conduct as defined by Webster s Dictionary. He does so by coming up with an absurd proposal that explicitly pokes fun at past proposal and implicitly brings out the severity of oppression present at the time. Mainly throughout paragraph twenty-nine Swift offers many serious ways in which the problem of oppression might be attacked.
Finally Swift offers one last concession I am not so violently bent upon my own opinion as to reject any offer proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap, easy, and effectual but then offers his own suggestion
I desire those politicians who dislike my overture will first ask the parents of these mortal whether they would not at his day think it a great happiness to have been sold for food at a year old in the manner I prescribe, and thereby have avoided such a perpetual scene of misfortunes as they have since gone through by the oppression of landlords, the impossibility of paying rent without money or trade (Swift 304)
This marks the last bit of Rogerian strategy. Swift has moved from small subtle bit of Rogerian to larger more direct speaking of his ideals. This only worked because he started out by warming up his audience to the method of conceding to gain understanding and building off that to gain ground.
In Letter from Birmingham Jail Martin Luther King Jr. has two different audiences. First he addresses the eight clergymen who wrote him the original statement posing a few questions they would like him to answer. But more importantly he writes to the white moderate, in particular those who are lukewarm on the issue at hand, segregation. These lukewarm people do not have a solid opinion either way, they merely sit on the fence waiting for some one to persuade them.
Similar to Swift, King uses parallel structure to add to the effectiveness of his attempt to persuade his multiple audiences. King discusses the importance of direct action now and not waiting because to many blacks this wait has almost always meant never (King 305). To show just how important this immediate direct action is, King cites different instances when. He repeats the phrase when you ten times in a row each followed with vivid imagery of immoral acts happening to blacks. This imagery often refers to children. King specifically uses the children because they are often viewed as innocent, not old enough to understand the terrible world that which surrounds them. People often feel empathetic when they see or hear of adult matters affecting children who have had nothing to do with the situation. The feeling being portrayed here exactly matches the one King wants his readers to have. He, like Swift, tries to get his audience to a place where they can share some common ground or understanding and from there move forward in an attempt to end segregation.
King uses antithesis along side parallel structure to create a certain overall rhythm. Smith defines antithesis as a sophisticated balance in which the two phrases or clauses oppose one another. King comes up with two of his own classic examples Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly (King 303). The effectiveness comes from the catchy tone and rhythm of the antithesis. These represent two main ideas King tries to get his audience to remember and comes
King effectively does get people to come to a common ground through empathy and use of parallelism but his letter becomes a bit too lengthy. King says himself never before have I written a letter so long. I am afraid it is much too long (King 314). Even here at the end of his essay King still tries to draw you to his side, to see things through his eyes and feel sorry for him as well as all the black community suffering from segregation I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell (King 314).
Both of these essays are well written but this is not the reason they are studied today. Swift s Modest Proposal has survived over two hundred years of students studying it and taking apart his argument. King s Letter from Birmingham Jail has survived twenty years and most likely will remain around for quite some time. The fact that the two essays are well written keeps only keeps them in the same ballpark as other well-written essays. It is the subject matter with which they address that keeps academia from letting them slip away into the stacks with all the other well written essay s. These essays deal with the issues of dehumanization, a deep-rooted issue that has gone on since the beginning and will hopefully subside with the help of authors like these. We commend these authors everyday of every year by using their work to educate the youth of today so that they will soon grow into the leaders of tomorrow.