Satire is a mode of literature that provides a good index to an author's value system. By analyzing the satiric techniques of an author, a student can assess what the author's values are and how he evaluates the conditions of the world in relationship to those values (either his values or a set of values to which he adheres). There are two kinds of satiric techniques--bipolar and dialectic. Bipolar satire expresses the point of view that there are two ways to live in the world--a right way and a wrong way. A satirist who uses this type of satire assumes that his way of life is the right way,' and almost everyone else's way of life is the wrong way. Dialectic satire, as explained by Kenneth Burke in A Grammar of Motives, expresses the point of view that there is no one correct way to live in the world. There are a variety of ways of living, each of which contains an element of truth. All together, these different ways of life form a progressive dialectic, moving closer and closer to the truth. A satirist who uses this type of satire is aware that no man, including himself, has the whole truth about life, but men ought to and will progress toward a more complete truth by trying a series of value systems through which they learn more about the best way of living.
E. B. White and Henry David Thoreau have been linked together by several of E. B. White's contemporaries. White has been called the twentieth century Thoreau, because he expresses some of the same opinions Thoreau does, because he writes a good deal about Thoreau and Thoreau's opinions, and because he writes something in the manner of Thoreau. Both men are satirists, and in order to discover whether or not White really is a contemporary Thoreau, it is necessary to examine their satiric techniques to determine their values.
Through the process of reading the entire works of White and Thoreau, the author has isolated several types of satiric techniques used by White and Thoreau. A detailed analysis of several representative passages by each has revealed that Thoreau primarily uses bipolar satire, while White primarily uses dialectic satire. Henry Thoreau, as seen in his satire, takes a superior attitude to his readers; he feels that he has progressed farther on the road to truth than most other men can ever hope to. E. B. White is sympathetic to his fellow men; he knows that he, as well as they, is not perfect. All men come short of perfect truth. He chides Thoreau for not recognizing this, although he praises Thoreau for attempting to achieve a perfect life in harmony with the natural world. White believes that, while we must have high ideals, we must also recognize that men will not reach their high ideals. Men can and must strive for a better life, even if they will always fall short of complete success.
The conclusion to this study is that E. B. White and Henry Thoreau do not have entirely similar systems of values. This can be seen by analyzing the techniques of satire which each man uses. On the surface the two men seem to be making similar statements about men and their world. But a closer examination of their works reveals that their basic value premises about men are not the same.
Robert P. Dunn
Richard B. Lewis
Helen F. Little
Master of Arts (MA)
Year Degree Awarded
Date (Title Page)
Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings
Thoreau; Henry David; 1817-1862; White; E. B. (Elwyn Brooks); 1899-1985; Satirists; American
Loma Linda University Libraries
This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.
Craig, Ruth Lynn, "E. B. White and Henry Thoreau : a study of satiric technique related to world view" (1972). Loma Linda University Electronic Theses, Dissertations & Projects. 959.
Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives