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“Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own” (Swift). Such beholders, as Jonathan Swift astutely emphasizes, are intended, through guidance of satiric narrative, to recognize social or political plights. In some satires, as in Swift’s own A Modest Proposal, the use of absurd, blatant exaggeration is intended to capture an indolent audience’s attention regarding the social state of the poor. Yet even in such a direct satire, there exists another layer of meaning. In regards to A Modest Proposal, the interchange between the voice of the proposer and Swift’s voice introduces another medium of criticism, as well as the opportunity for readers to reflect on how well they may fit the proposer’s persona. In such as case, the satire exists on multiple levels of meaning—not only offering conclusions about moral problems, but also allowing the audience to an interpretation of their place among the criticism.

Some of most lasting works of satire exemplify such a function, most specifically through the end-states of the protagonists. Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Voltaire’s Candide, and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels all exemplify end-states of protagonists that emphasize conclusions to the moral and philosophical problems posed by the authors. Yet, each also exhibits a degree of ambiguity, which allows the audience to reflect on the criticism in conjunction with literary examination. All three of the aforementioned literary works are different in content and the degree of satire employed. However, by comparing the differences and similarities between protagonist end-states in each work, it becomes possible to better understand satire as a literary genre. Namely, the characteri...

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...sions about what philosophy of life, if any, is best. Finally, in Gulliver’s Travels the audience is left to ponder the true state of mankind.

Though each of the above works varies in the degree of satire employed, the pattern among them accentuates how satire can best be understood not only as a lens of criticism, but also in captivating the audience into considering their own role in the criticism. Often times, as has been shown, the authors’ utilize the end-states of protagonists to emphasize critique made throughout the literary work. Yet, the degree of ambiguity serves to engage the audience, which leads to a greater effectiveness of the satire. Therefore, returning to Swift’s quote on satire, the most effective satires not only allow for beholders to discover everybody else’s face, but through degrees of ambiguity, they also are able to discover their own.

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