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Jonathan Swift And Oliver Smith

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  • Pages: 2
  • Word count: 473
  • Category: Politics

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Jonathan Swift and Oliver Goldsmith must be noted as the most pertinent satirists on the imperfections of the human nature and political systems. It is not so much their political commentary that makes their works important for all generations to come but the efficiency with which they can sugar coat the heavy commentary with entertaining plot and story line.

In his preface for the book of The Battle of the books Swift comments thus on Satire

“Satire is a glass wherein beholders do generally discover every body’s face but their own, which is the reason so few are offended by it”

Armed with this powerful element Swift proceeds to cast his observant eye on the human frailty and the crassness of his contemporary political system. Taking the example of Gulliver’s travels, long before Einstein could come up with his celebrated Theory of Relativity, through the protagonist, Gulliver examines the way human beings pass judgment on other cultures that they know little about. Instead of approaching a new culture with a n open mind, we often compare the other culture through tinted glasses of our own perception.

Had Swift been caustic and realistic in his commentary, the protectors of the establishment would have pounced on him to devour his artistic independence and creative license. Instead, he chose satirize the British custom of selecting the rulers and an apparent lack of democracy. In Lilliput he observes Gulliver observes people being awarded and decorated for being able to jump the highest or creep the farthest.

It is a comment on the British system of awarding positions discounting their worthiness and placing an accent on their perceived proximity to the powers that be. Though Gulliver fails to be appalled by the moral backwardness of the Lilliput system of government, he is quick to notice and come to dread the physical ugliness of the Giants. The reader is left to ponder that Lilliputs would have felt much the same about his physique. The satirical genius of Swift is also evident in the way he makes the giants of Brobdingnag more compassionate and repulsive to the idea of British political system.

The king of Giants comments that he is surprised that Gulliver  “could entertain such inhuman ideas, and in so familiar a manner as to appear wholly unmoved at all the scenes of blood and desolation, which (he) had painted as the common effects of those destructive machines.” Rev. Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, p.168

 Racism, which is simply put, the way of stereotyping a race with their physical appearances and canonizing the misconceptions, is the subject of this satire. Gulliver assumes the giants to be violent because, to him, they seem offending and large. On the contrary they turn out to be more compassionate than average human beings.

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