Carl Sagan and Swift's "A Modest Proposal"

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"Carl Sagan would be pleased. It is his The Demon-Haunted World that opens with a story concerning a taxi driver: The driver, once realizing it is Carl Sagan, "that scientist guy," in his cab's backseat, proceeds to bombard Sagan with questions about truly scientific issues in the vein of "channeling," "Nostradamus, astrology, the shroud of Turin." And the driver presents each of these subjects "with a buoyant enthusiasm." Yet Sagan disappoints him. With a list of facts, Sagan tells the man why there is a 99% chance each of his pseudoscientific theses are not true or why sometimes there is just a much simpler explanation which Occam's Razor dictates we take. This respectful and modest logical deconstruction of absurd ideas is a compelling aspect of Sagan's writing style. Enter Jonathan Swift: Jonathan Swift's essay "A Modest Proposal" parallels Sagan's style in its logical, mathematical, and unpretentious tone. However instead of Sagan's deconstructing of absurd ideas, Swift constructs one. A second difference is purpose: Sagan's is science; Swift's, satire. Swift lets us know right off the bat that the fictitious author of his essay is a cultured man. One finds the first evidence of Swift's authors formal background in the title, "A Modest Proposal: For Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being A burden to Their Parents or Country, and For Making Them Beneficial to The Public." Swift then continues to drive the point home by using complex sentences throughout the rest of the essay, as well as maintaining a relatively high level of diction (there's not a contraction to be found in his essay). Swift uses "sustenance" in instead of "food" and "prodigious" instead of "large" to help accomplish the writers status as sophisticated. With some knowledge of the time period this essay was written in, one realizes that Swift's fictitious author satires the way the English treated the poor during Ireland's potato famine. It is the complex...
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