"A MODEST PROPOSAL" AND "ADVICE TO YOUTH"
Satire, for the most part, is a form of literature designed to prick the pompous balloons of the status quo, to poke fun (whether in a caustic or light-hearted way) at what is a somewhat serious subject. Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain can both be considered satirists, although they lived more than a century and a half apart. In the case of the two works here, Swift's is the more important, in terms of social problems. There was a very serious problem of unemployment, immigration, and large families unable to be supported by their bread winners. The wealthy and pompous in England saw these large families as nuisances, rather than people in need. Swift even tweaks the "over-breeding" of the poor: "àof the hundred and twenty thousand children already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breed, whereof only one-fourth part shall be males, which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle, or swineà" (Swift 2). Swift airs the callousness of the government in trying to regulate poverty, child bearing, and government assistance. It would be no surprise to find out readers took Swift's "proposal" seriously and not the biting satire it is.
Twain is avuncular, not biting. He is preaching to the choir, so to speak. "Always obey your parents when they are present" (Twain 1) would elicit a knowing wink and a chuckle from an audience tired of hearing parents and educators rant about how important "order" is in life. They KNOW he is kidding.
Satire, according to the dictionary is the use of sarcasm, irony, or keen wit in denouncing abuses or follies. In the case of these two vastly different approaches to satire, one can easily see that Swift is denouncing the thoughtlessness of the upper and middle classes concerning the poor, while Twain is only mildly twitting then relationship between generationr It is also impnrtant to realize that the type of audiences addressed sets t...