Satire and Colonialism in the Eighteenth Century: Jonathan Swift


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This essay will be on Jonathan swifts books ‘a Modest Proposal’ and ‘Gulliver’s Travels. Satire is defined as using writing to poke fun at or ridicule a particular person or human weakness in general.

Swift was born in 1667 and lived until 1745. at the time Swift was writing about the conditions for poor Catholics in Ireland, a quote states that ‘for many years these laws excluded Catholics from all public life and much normal private social activity. They made it illegal for Catholics to buy land, obtain a mortgage on it, rent it at a reasonable profit or even inherit it normally’ this shows that Catholics had noting. This makes me feel angry that they have no rights. They were treated lower than animals.

Swift wrote ‘a Modest Proposal’ to draw peoples attention to the discrimination against Irish Catholics. I will now consider the use of satire in swift’s text a ‘Modest Proposal’ five satirical techniques: unexpected words, exaggeration, reversing what is expected, and odd or inappropriate comparison or analogy and finally to start off believable. An example of this is ‘ it is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town’ this is a believable start to the book. It makes it sound like a biography, another example is when he mentions about eating babies ‘a healthy young child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food.’ This turns the book around. This makes people want to read on because of that one line.

Moving on to swift’s ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, Gulliver began the novel in a very believable way by describing it like a autobiographical story. He retells his early life, it gives lots of details creating a believable introduction, which is one of the satirical techniques, which helped by the inclusion of maps. However this was not a real autobiography because of the encounter of the Lilliputians. The Lilliputians’ we tiny people compared to Gulliver this satirical technique is called ‘reversing the unexpected, he applied this very well. This shows the censors who allowed this to be published didn’t care about what he was doing, another thing what swift was trying to imply was the authority didn’t care about there jobs. They were offered it because of there wealth not there brains. In chapter five of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ Blefuscun ships were attacking Lilliput. The emperor ordered Gulliver to seize the whole of the Blefuscun fleet.

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Gulliver ordered a great quantity of the strongest cable and bars of iron. When he had got them he went to the sea. He waded through the water for half a hour until he had to swim about thirty yards until he arrived at the blefuscun dock. When the blefuscun’s saw him they, ‘leaped out of there ships’, this represents the sheer size of Gulliver. Later on in the story there is a fire in the palace. Gulliver is called by the Lilliputians’ to help. Gulliver urinates on the palace and much to the empresses grief urinates all over her. Gulliver thought he was a hero however the empress swore revenge on Gulliver, this symbolises Queen Anne’s hate towards swift. In writing this swift is mocking the monocracy. Showing that they are stupid and tiny.

I think swifts stories are very intriguing and make you want to read on. The satirical techniques and ideas are still relevant today. The things swift was attacking still happen such as war and injustice. You can find thease examples on tv shows such as ‘Mock The Week’ and ‘Have I Got News For You’


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