There have been many racial biases throughout history. Many cultural groups have overcome diversity in their own ways, for instance the Jews against Germany, the Native-Americans against England, the Irish against England as well as African-Americans against majority white Americans. In “A Modest Proposal” written by Jonathan Swift and “Letter from Birmingham Jail” written by Martin Luther King Jr., both point out racial discrimination and segregation. Both essays were very argumentative, including outstanding viewpoints. “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift and “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King, Jr., were compelling on the levels of comparison and contrast and the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” was more successful. “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift was a protest of the oppressive treatment of the poor Catholics of Ireland by the English. Overpopulation and appalling economic and political policies of the Irish and English governments were also concerning issues of Swifts proposal as well.
The peasants of Dublin were in extremely poverty-stricken conditions and had become quite a burden to the state. The probable solution brought forth by Jonathan Swift in his satire, “A Modest Proposal,” suggested that in order to handle the poverty and overpopulation of Ireland, the children of the poor should be sold as food to the wealthy. As a result, Swift argued that not only will the population be reduced but also the income of the poor will increase significantly as they sell their children. In developing this extreme proposal, Swift provides abundant details projecting the costs of raising a child and estimating the portion of the population being reduced. Swift’s proposal of alternative solutions to Ireland’s problems was never intended to be taken literally, but it did grab the attention of the Irish and English governments.
The “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” was written in response to a group of clergymen in Birmingham, Alabama, referring to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s acts of protest and civil disobedience as being extreme. There was a meaning to Martin Luther King’s so-called civil disobedience and that was implementing a non-violent approach to accomplishing integration for African-Americans in the south. Dr. King wrote the letter while incarcerated for parading without a valid permit. The letter addressed to the eight Birmingham clergymen expressed Dr. King’s patience with the slowness that the clergymen showed in coming to terms with his arguments, resolving the issue of segregation in south and labeling him as an extremist.
“Letter from Birmingham Jail” and “A Modest Proposal” are similar in the fact that both try to eradicate the issues of segregation, governmental exploitation, and the inefficacy of political leadership.
In Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” he used satire and imagery to influence the people and voice his opinion about discrimination against the Irish. By using sarcastic comparisons and ironic exaggerations, Swift thought this would be a way to get the Irish to understand that if they do not defend their beliefs and stand up for their own individual beliefs and identities, then their economy and society would continue to suffer. Swift was the rebellious voice of Ireland; he was also passionate about his country and wanted his concerns for the society to be taken seriously, not necessarily through politics, but through protest writing. Swift felt that there was a way to turn this problem into its own solution. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jonathan Swift’s personas were very similar; they both fought for a cause that made their country unjust by the use of literary wittiness and uncanniness.
A “Letter to Birmingham” is different from “A Modest Proposal” through its means of argumentation. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his letter, was writing for his own rights as well as blacks in the south and to gain freedom from segregation. Integration was the main goal to be obtained from writing this letter. Martin Luther King’s belief was if blacks continued to be treated as they were, the southern portion of the United States would be like a communist country without democracy. In “A Modest Proposal,” Jonathan Swift was mainly giving solutions to make the English aware through his satirical proposal reduce the overpopulation in Ireland. Even though both writers’ approaches were different, they both supported a cause they believed in.
“A Letter from Birmingham Jail” was successful because “On May 10, 1963, an agreement was reached in Birmingham, Alabama: stores, restaurants, and schools will be desegregated, the hiring of African-Americans is set in motion, and the charges against Martin Luther King are dropped” (Seckrater). After the publication of the letter, African-Americans stood up for what they believed in, and Martin Luther King, Jr. had shown them the way and made them believe and know that integration could be accomplished. “In June1964, President Kenney reacted to the Birmingham protests and the obstinacy of segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace by agreeing to submit broad civil rights legislation to congress (which eventually passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964)” (Carson). In conclusion, both essays were attention grabbers. Jonathan Swift gave his point of view rather sarcastically and ironically, and Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his point by simply justifying his actions.
In the essay, “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King, Jr. was referred to as an extremist because of his act of civil disobedience. There was a meaning to Martin Luther King’s so-called civil disobedience and that was implementing a nonviolent approach at accomplishing integration for African-Americans in the south. Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” was considered an extremely sarcastic and simply absurd solution for the problem Ireland was having with poverty and overpopulation in the 1700s. Swift’s approach, although sarcastic, was thought provoking and really brought the issue to the forefront. The two essays gave the feelings, emotions, and the stressful times the two individual’s societies were facing. Both essays shared similarities as well as differences, but most of all, they both affected change.
Carson, Clayborne. Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. “Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2006.
Seckrater, Donna M. “Letter from Birmingham Jail”: The Rhetoric of Martin
Luther King. Spring 2003. 7 July 2008