Misguided Criticisms of Jonathan Swift

2172 Words9 Pages
Misguided Criticisms of Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) is quite possibly the greatest satirist in

the history of English literature, and is without question the most

controversial. Infuriated by the moral degradation of society in the

eighteenth century, Swift wrote a plethora of bitter pieces attacking man's

excessive pride, and the critical reception has been one of very mixed

reviews. While few question Swift's skill as a satirist, his savage,

merciless attacks on the foibles of mankind have led more than one critic

to level negative accusations against him. His beliefs have led to

allegations of heresy, an anti-government attitude and a devotion to

freeing man's right to passion. His most famous work, Gulliver's Travels,

has resulted in attacks on his writing style, and his cruel, invidious

assaults on sin have led to cries of egotist, misanthrope and sadist.

Every one of these accusations is false. Jonathan Swift's critics are

misguided and incorrect in their attacks on his beliefs and writings.

Jonathan Swift is falsely accused of heresy for attacking human life.

Swift infuriates some critics for criticizing something that they feel must

be divine since it is the chief instrument of God. These critics argue

that human nature must be dignified if it is the key theme of Christianity.

They, however, are wrong, and are guilty of being naive. Swift and his

supporters counter their attacks by pointing out that it is hypocritical of

them to revere such vices as corruption, greed, and immortality, and these

critics need to take a serious look at this (Knowles 34-35). Swift himself

has answ...

... middle of paper ...

... the criticisms leveled against his beliefs and writings simply

out of ignorance and naiveté will continue to be dismissed as misguided and


Works Cited

Bloom, Harold, ed. Jonathan Swift. New York: Chelsea, 1986.

---, ed. Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. New York: Chelsea, 1996.

Brady, Frank, ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of Gulliver's Travels.

Englewood Cliffs: Prentice, 1968.

Dennis, Nigel. Jonathan Swift: A Short Character. New York: Macmillan,


Knowles, Ronald. Gulliver's Travels: The Politics of Satire. New York:

Twayne, 1996.

Tuveson, Ernest, ed. Swift: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood

Cliffs: Prentice, 1964.

Ward, David. Jonathan Swift: An Introductory Essay. London: Methuen, 1973.
Open Document