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Jonathan Swift

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Jonathan Swift à He was born in Ireland in 1667 of English parents. He became a priest and left Dublin for England to reside in the household of Sir William Temple and he tried a career in politics, but it wasn't very positive. His ecclesiastical career wasn't very successful, as he only became Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin. His life wasn't a happy one, he was lonley and frustrated in his ambitions, and this disillusionment was probably one of the reasons of his pessimism and hatred towards mankind. These feelings probably explain why his vision of human kind and of man'd rationality in his literary works is so unusual, pessimistic, sad, disillusioned and negative. He wrote satirical works against political corruption, and especially against the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole. He spent the last part of his life in Ireland, where he became a sort of national hero because of his pamphlets in defence of the Irish. His final years were spent in lethargy because of an illness that caused the loss of his mental powers.

Style/Language à Swift was a writer and one of the most important founders of professional journalism. Realism or the idea of a realistic story was represented by concrete details which could convince the readers that the story narrated had really happened. His style was that of an embittered moralist, who denounced English corruption and misgovernment but who didn't propose a solution to the problems. His language is not very easy to understand because he had to cover his attacks under metaphors or to hide names, places and situations under unusual and difficult names. His books show a profound disgust of mankind who was considered by him full of miseries and folly. Both of them are a negative utopia where faults and human vices are emphasized and stressed without using hipocrisy or falseness. He only protected himself by hiding dangerous names/places.

Satire à it's a way used by writers to depict the dark side of human nature by making it explicit and by omitting any direct comment upon the events. Techniques used by writers who use a satire way to describe:

v Irony à writers say the opposite of what they really mean

v Parallelism à it's generally used. Satire isn't directly evocked, but rather represented by means of a metaphore

v Neutrality à it's only apparent. The more detailed and the more reliable the reader appears, the more effective and entertaining the satire will be for him

v Exaggeration à the author pushes a metaphor to the extreme of absurdity

Gulliver's Travels à it's a tale of travel and adventures set in fantastic far-away islands inhabited by strange races (Lilliputians, giants, speaking horses, Yahoos). Swift mixes the fantastic and the real and makes use of first-person narrator, the voice that tells the story. This book belongs to the tradition of  Utopian narratives, because it's centred on a voyage, or a series of voyages, to unknown regions of the world. The adventures of the hero bring him into contact with peoples who are either more civilized or reflect our worst habits and defects. Gulliver is forced to examine his country's and his own position in the light of the new realities he is faced with. This novel has been considered a children's story, a philosophical tale whose dept evades us or an extended metaphor, full of mysterious allusions. It's divided into tree boks:

v First book: the very small Lilliputians exemplify the meanness and the pettines of our own world, and they are cruel and treacherous, only great in their thirt of power.

v Second book: the gigantic size of the people of Brobdingnag allows Gulliver to see all the physical imperfections of man, but they are wise and good and, after hearing Gulliver's description of English civilization, they conclude that it's barbarous.

v Third book: the voyage to Laputa is a direct satire of contemporany England. Swift satirizes modern philosophies and science, and their presumptuousness in claiming to be able to solve all mankind's problems.

v Fourth book: in the last voyage, Gulliver is faced with the degrated humanity of the Yahoos (which he recognises as his own) and the superior intelligence of the wise horses, which can speak, study and discuss. Gulliver, a poor confused ordinary man, is caught in the middle; when the story ends, he no longer knows to which world he belongs.

The Battle of the Books à pamphlet

A Tale of a Tub à satirical work

The Drapier's Letters à prose satire related to the social and political Irish situation

A Modest Proposal à prose satire wich paradoxically suggests the use of Irish children as food for the rich


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