Jonathan Swift: Literature Works
Although born in Ireland, Jonathan Swift spent much of his life in England. It is safe to say he had a love hate relationship with both countries. He hated the English for the persecution of the Irish, but he had little respect for his own countrymen either. Swift was a bit of a misanthropist and keen to satirize the follies and absurdities of patriotism and pride wherever he saw them. His two great works Gulliver’s Travels and A Modest Proposal shed a lot of light on what he really thought of both the English and the Irish people.
In Gulliver’s Travels, Swift successfully sends up any number of English issues of the day, be they scientific, economic, literary or philosophical. Each of the four countries Gulliver visits represents a different version of a corrupt and ridiculous England. In Lilliput, for example, Swift mocks the royal pretensions of the day. He also mocks the differences between various religious sects. In Brobdignang, Swift shows us the physical squalor and unhygienic nature of life in England at the time. In Laputa, he mocks scientific and philosophical pretension. Swift saves the worst for last, introducing a devolving human race called the Yahoos.
Swift was kinder in some respects to the Irish, just using them as a joke to strike back at the might English. In A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, he appears to be making a serious proposal about how to help out the suffering people of Ireland, but in fact advocates they should sell their babies to higher class rich people: this would mean they would save money because they would have less mouths to feed plus they would make extra cash. He actually did not have too much sympathy for the Irish poor, but was happy to use them as a stick beat at the English with. At any rate, this magnificent story in animated by a powerful misanthropy: something we can say Swift felt for both the English and the Irish.