Volume 91, Issue 33

Tuesday, October 28, 1997



Clueless criticism

Re: A modest proposal about immodest acts, Oct.9

To the Editor:
Reading Professor Carroll's article I was reminded of another similar article entitled A Modest Proposal, by Jonathan Swift. Swift wrote this article to the English Parliament as a proposal to wipe out the problem of starvation in Ireland. He suggested that human babies could be reared, like farm animals, to provide an economical food source. His article has been viewed as one of the paramount satirical works in the English language.

Upon comparison, Swift and Carroll's articles are both so overtly outrageous that they have to be taken as satire – which indeed they are. The very title of Carroll's article sends clues to the reader as to how it should be viewed. Maybe some people found it hard to read between the lines. Or maybe they just didn't realize Professor Carroll was using satire to prove a point.

Some people missed the point entirely and chose to make personal and petty attacks on him. Others didn't see beyond the interpretations he placed on the biblical text and set out to refute them, instead of responding to the underlying thesis.

In both responses the authors in question failed to see behind the words and discover the true meaning of the message. The former acted in a petty manner, lashing out unthinkingly without fully understanding and appreciating the article he was condemning. The later instance is a case where the person has thought out his arguments carefully but totally missed the deeper meaning of the article.

The majority comprehended Professor Carroll's article but didn't feel the need to explain it. Maybe the rest of us just thought the underlying lesson in the article was so obvious it didn't need to be spelled out. I guess we were wrong.

Peter Burns
Anthropology II

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Copyright The Gazette 1997