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"The stoical scheme of supplying our wants by lopping off our desires, is like cutting off our feet when we want shoes."

-Jonathan Swift

"We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love on another."

-Jonathan Swift

Like all true satirists, Swift was predominantly a moralist, one who chastises the vices and follies of humankind in the name of virtue and common sense. Throughout his writing, Swift constantly raised the question of whether the achievements of civilization-its advancing technology, its institutions, its refinement of manners-cannot be seen as complex forms of barbarism. With this theme in mind, Swift wrote some of his best works: A Modest Proposal, Gulliver’s Travels, and A Tale of a Tub. Although he is mastery at prose, he is also known for his poetry. It can be said that the subjects within his writings could be taken from his religious belief in the non-perfection of man. Swift believed that human reason was necessary to divine guidance. According to Herbert Read, Swift was the first poet who dared to describe nature as it is with all its deformities, and to give exact expression to a turn of thought no matter the subject. And because his life was one long mutiny-mutiny against darkness of fate, the injustice of men, the indignity of our bodily functions-his work is one long scrutiny into dark depths. Therefore, he attacks the idealistic idea of feminine beauty by ironically drawing attention to the female body’s excretory functions.

Unfortunately, Swift emphasizes women, despite his deep love and friendship for individual women, as a symbol of man’s bestiality. He victimizes women by his own secret over-idealization of her. This is seen in his poems, The Lady’s Dressing-Room, Strephon and Chloe, and A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed. Swift becomes obsessed by the morbidly physical. The gap between spirit and flesh cannot bridge, for flesh has become uncleansable to him. With Swift being seen by Robert Ellis--quoted by Herbert Read-as having neurasthenia, anything that comes regularly and in routine is liable to become intolerable, it is easier to understand some of his writings. This idea gained him much ridicule from critics because thinkers of his day stressed the essential goodness and rationality of humans. Swift, certainly, shares this i...

... middle of paper ...

...od which he was writing and the subjects that were generally written about. Because his descriptions are so detailed, and the imagery is so deep, Jonathan Swift proves himself as a writer to be studied and admired.



Brown, Laura. “Reading Race and Gender: Jonathan Swift.” Critical Essays on Jonathan Swift. Ed. Frank Palmeri. New York: G.K. Hall & Co, 1993. 122.

Davis, Herbert. “Swift’s View of Poetry.” Poetry Criticism. Ed. Drew Kalasky. Vol. 9. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1994. 259

Donoghue, Denis, Ed. Jonathan Swift. Australia: Penguin Books, 1971. 307.

Huxley, Aldous. “Do What You Will.” London: Chatto & Windus, 1956.

Johnson, Maurice. “The Sin of Wit: Jonathan Swift as a Poet.” Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800. Ed. Dennis Poupard. Vol. 1. New Jersey: Gale Research Company, 1984. 502.

Read, Herbert. “The Poems of Swift.” Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800. Ed. Dennis Poupard. Vol. 1. New Jersey: Gale Research Company, 1984. 453.

Watkins, W.B.C. “Absent Thee from Felicity.” Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800. Ed. Dennis Poupard. Vol. 1. New Jersey: Gale Research Company, 1984. 461.

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