Mencken And Kroll- Capital Punishment

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Mencken and Kroll Essay Capital punishment is a very contentious issue that is disputed by many Americans. Most argue over whether it is morally right or wrong to execute a criminal, but some are more concerned with the treatment of criminals on death row. The essays The Penalty of Death by H.L. Mencken and the Unquiet Death of Robert Harris by Michael Kroll are examples of two different view points of the death penalty and use completely different methods of argument. Kroll appeals to the emotions of the reader through description of the harsh, cruel conditions of death row, whereas Mencken uses dark humor while arguing for support of the death penalty. In The Penalty of Death by H.L. Mencken, dark humor is evident early on. While laying out two opposing viewpoints, Mencken describes execution as the “frying” or “gassing” of a man so the reader doesn’t take the opposition seriously. Mencken brings humor to a serious issue while effectively portraying the opposing arguments as complaints. He purposefully sets up the opposing arguments so weakly that he can tear them down within the two proceeding paragraphs. Mencken also doesn’t include that people against capital punishment may feel that execution is morally wrong because it would be more difficult for him to formulate a counterargument. The rest of The Penalty of Death, is devoted to Mencken’s argument that capital punishment is necessary to achieve katharsis. Instead of using a common word such as revenge of relief, Mencken cleverly chooses katharsis, a word of Aristotle which includes all of these feelings. “Katharsis,” Mencken states, “means a salubrious discharge of emotions, a healthy letting off of steam.” To make the meaning of Katharsis even clearer, Mencken uses common situations in which katharsis is a factor, such as a shop owner who reports his thief bookkeeper to the police. To
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