Comparison Between Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and Jonathan Swift’s Journal Gulliver’s Travels Thematically and Philosophically
Geofrey Chaucer and Jonathan Guliver are two of the most notable authors of their time, who, in their attempt to explain the happenings in the society, came up with a satirical way in doing so. Their writings which alternate between pilgrimage or travels demonstrate their quest in finding the most appropriate and intriguing way of narrating their stories in the most satirical way if not humorous. By using his fictitious character Gulliver, Swift is able to portray the politics of his period through various adventures in the most satirical form (Myles 11). The ideas reflected in Gulliver’s Travels have always aroused literary critiques on whether they were Swift’s ways to describe the political and philosophical concepts of his time or whether they were ideas put into the mind of his fictitious character Gulliver (Myles 11). During his Swifts time, most people were always fascinated with adventure into far unknown lands and thus his writing reached a far much greater audience (Myles 11). An example of Swift’s use of satire is in the introductory excerpt in which he shows the hypocritical nature of politics in England. In the passage, this he does by narrating the customs and politics of the Lilliputians and emphasizing that the tallest man who happens to be the leader is only a nail taller than everybody else (Myles 11). This way he is able to express show that, the fact that the king can give orders and command his every other ways, this does not mean that he is extra-ordinary or does it make him superhuman.
Chaucer’s fictional works differ slightly from Swift’s given the fact that they mostly portrayed the people most of the same social class and interactions. This confinement slightly gave his works a more or less restricted to explaining and understanding of one’s social circle of friends at stereotyping and satirical nature. The social constructs are demonstrated in his works that revolve around a group of friends who on their pilgrimage to Canterbury, engage in a tale-telling contest to as a way to pass the time (General Prologue & Frame Story; para. 1). Chaucer based his story upon the medieval estate stereotypes of his period upon which individuals were judged by their profession (General Prologue & Frame Story; para. 2). Throughout most of his tales he brings out the idea of religious anticlericalism a characteristic that evolved in response to the verbal abusive nature of the church clergy during the medieval periods (General Prologue & Frame Story; para. 5). He was therefore able to portray the monks, nuns, priests, and the like in the same light. What comes out strongly in Chaucer’s tales is the stereotypes associated with people and what they happen to be when we get to know them personally. In his tales, the pilgrims on their way to Canterbury are total strangers. In their tales, they may happen to agitate each other based on the stereotypes they have heard, but they soon wake up to realize that the people who are ascribed such values turn out to be different (General Prologue & Frame Story; para. 12). The Canterbury Tales, seem to portray a society in which individuals can be judged by what they look like (General Prologue & Frame Story; para. 5).
In conclusion, it can be seen that the two author’s were very diligent in their work which demonstrated a vast amount of knowledge to different places and interaction with people. They possessed a similar philosophical mind of thought in their view of the society which is extensive in their use of satire to express the human nature which is evident throughout their literary works. The fact that their works survived their period and era in time leaves no doubt what they had to offer was impactfull.
Myles, Shenitria. ‘The political Implications of Gulliver’s travels’ Volume 10, Issue 1,
December 2012. Scholarly Note. 10-15.
‘The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story’. Shmoop. Web 2014. Accessed on
May 1st, 2014 at