English Literature-Gullivers Travels, Jonathan Swift

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Gulliver’s Travels]-

Jonathan Swift

**************************************************************** By P. Baburaj, Senior Lecturer, Dept. of English, Sherubtse college, Bhutan Author of: Language and writing, DSB Publication Thimphu Communicative English, P. K. Books, Calicut A perception on Literary Criticism, P.K. Books, Calicut ******************************************************************

The eighteenth century was an age of satire. Dryden and pope immortalized themselves by their verse while Jonathan Swift was undoubtedly the greatest British satirist in prose. The political and religious controversies of the time were conducive to the promotion of satire in an age of urbanity and refinement which not only tolerated but delighted in satire, provided, it was humorous and witty it has been remarked that satire is the fine art of calling names. In Rome Horace and Juvenal used satire for the purpose of ridiculing human affectations, follies and vices with a view of reforming society. But when the satire is too general it stands in danger of falling wide of its target and when it is directed against individuals it is likely to be debased in to personal lampoons. Swift wrote personal satires but his attacks were generally directed against common abuses and his main purpose was to reform society. Jonathan Swift was born of English parents in Dublin in 1667. He was a distant cousin of Dryden who happened to incur the lasting displeasure of Swift by his remarks: ”cousin Swift you will never be a poet”. Distantly related to Sir William Temple, a retired politician and an elegant writer of the period Swift came to London and stayed with his wealthy relation as a poor dependent and confidential secretary. He graduated from Trinity College Dublin and was well read in the classics. Later he studied theology and was ordained priest .one of his squibs on religion offended Queen Anne and he was baulked of his promotion in the church but after her death he rose to be the Dean of St. Patrick’s in Dublin towards the close of the century. Temple happened to dabble in literature. The controversy regarding the relative merits of the ancient and modern authors roused more heat than light for some time in France and Temple made some references to it in one of his essays. Virulent attacks and counter attacks appeared in the press. It was a veritable storm in a tea cup. Swift was neither concerned with the controversy nor qualified to take an effective part in it. Nevertheless he entered in to the fray with all the weapon in his arrows – satire, humour, irony, sarcasm, ridicule and invective. In his ‘the battle of the books’ he supported Temple and ridiculed his opponents. In the famous allegory of ‘the bee and spider’, he praised the ancients as furnishing honey and wax, sweetness and light, and ridiculed the moderns as weaving flimsy webs, like the spider , with the poisonous stuff that flowered from themselves. In the tale of a tub, swift set out to ridicule the extremist in Catholicism and the fanatical dissenters and to advocate the middle course as represented by the Anglican church. For this purpose he invented an allegorical fable of three brothers who inherited a coat of a piece from their father with strict instructions regarding its use. The coat, of course, is the Christian theology. The three brothers Peter, Martin and Jack symbolise respectively Roman Catholicism, the Anglican Church and the dissenters. It is a master piece of satire, but the ultimate result of swift’s satire was to bring all religion in to contempt, though that was not his real aim. Swift’s irony can best illustrated by his short pamphlet entitled a modest proposal. He was roused to righteous indignation at the ruthless exploitation of the Irish peasantry by their absentee landlords in England. But swift opens his ‘proposal’ with a quietly deceptive tone of seriousness. He puts forth his modest proposal for the economic uplift of the poor Irish...
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