Contrasting Political Satire

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Contrasting Political Satire

By | May 2013
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Alex Williams
Final Comparative Essay
Contrasting Political Satire
Andrew Stott says the following about satire: “In the best instances, it takes its subject matter from the heart of political life or cultural anxiety, re-framing issues at an ironic distance that enables us to revisit fundamental questions that have been obscured by rhetoric, personal interests, or realpolitik.” In Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut and “Crazy for This Democracy” by Zora Neale Hurston, satire is used to scathingly critique American politics. Slaughterhouse Five relates the story of an unpretentious young man named Billy Pilgrim as he experiences World War II and the firebombing of Dresden. Vonnegut responds to the rampant deaths throughout the book by countlessly using the phrase “so it goes,” sarcastically mocking the realpolitik approach to war and death. In “Crazy for This Democracy,” Hurston satirizes the American government and its perceived hypocrisy in affording democratic rights to whites while denying them to blacks, Asians, and other groups. The two pieces differ, however, in their approach to satire. While Slaughterhouse Five and “Crazy for This Democracy” both use satire to propose a reevaluation of the American political structure, the two differ as to how they envisage change from the status quo.

In “Crazy for This Democracy,” Hurston establishes a clear sarcastic tone throughout the essay in a number of ways. She begins the essay by describing the virtues of democracy according to others, pretending to be completely ignorant: “They tell me this democracy form of government is a wonderful thing. It has freedom, equality, justice, in short, everything! Since 1937 nobody has talked about anything else” (165). This sense of ignorance is the key to Hurston’s satire in the essay. By pretending not to know anything about democracy, Hurston lays the foundation for the political argument she is to make. She goes on to say of democracy: “…this talk and praise-giving...

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