Compare the representation of family relationships in the work of 2 writers you have studied this term (Hamlet and Swift's 'Modest Proposal')
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Compare the representation of family relationships in the work of 2 writers you have studied this term (Hamlet and Swift's 'Modest Proposal') These two texts are very different in many aspects. Not only in form, style and structure, but also in content. They show obvious differences with reference to family relationships. 'Hamlet' focuses on a single family with severe problems needing research into psychoanalysis to make these truly clear, whereas a 'A Modest Proposal' shows the problems of families in an Irish Society in the 18th Century, namely those of the poorer classes. The similarity between them is singularly that the families portrayed are unhappy and certainly not stereotypical. Swift's society is portrayed as miserable and in need of political help, Shakespeare's protagonist family, and indeed other more minor ones are crying out for help which they never get, and may have been far beyond. It is the way in which they are presented by the writers which needs further analysis. Swift's satirical taint on 'A Modest Proposal' makes it difficult to take much of the contents too seriously. However, his acute observations on society as a whole, and the way that we treat each other are both profound and sensible. He shows us a society which is impoverished and in dire need of help from it's government. He is trying to make clear the full horror of Ireland's economic situation at the time through satirical attack. As a whole it would be implausible to view it as a literal argument, but its representation of families at this time may hold more truth. He seems to be urging families not to allow the brutality of their circumstance to influence their treatment of one another, and specifically calls upon parents to protect their children.
It can be argued that this is all Gertrude has been reduced to in 'Hamlet', an instrument representing her gender, as Hamlet struggles to detach himself from her. It is precisely the sexual, reproductive side of his mother he wishes to escape. Interesting is that Swift tries to reduce women to only their gender, while Hamlet wants to avoid this part of them, specifically Gertrude and Ophellia. Furthermore, in lines 329-341, the narrator attacks men's treatment of women, and in particular, their wives. He feels that only with the motivation of money will men treat their wives with the same respect they grant their "mares in foal, their cows in calf, or sows when they are ready to farrow." Beating and kicking them, a common practice, would now injure their income; let alone their own child. In 'Hamlet', there is a role reversal. It is Gertrude who appears to mistreat her husband, by possibly being an accomplice in his murder, and certainly knowing of Claudius's plan at the least. An abusive relationship is also present from Hamlet to his mother, but there appears to be no ill wish on King Hamlet's part to mistreat his wife, as his ghost appears to protect her from Hamlet's vigour in Act 3 Scene 3. We can see that in irradiating all need for intimacy in family relationships, 'A Modest Proposal' is as far removed from the intense, twisted relationships in 'Hamlet'- on the surface as it can be. As Swift's text is a work saturated with irony and satire, perhaps his actual point is exactly the opposite. He is placing blame on the political leaders of the time for allowing such a situation to arise, but he may be placing the predominant blame on the Irish.
He fears the contamination will spread to him, and this causes his rash and panicked actions. He is sure that id female sexuality is polluted and incestuous, he can no longer be certain of who he is, and certainly whose son he is. This conception of the "Bastard" child corresponds to 'A Modest Proposal'. The narrator created by Swift also accepts the problem of the bastard child and feels that it is easier to kill (and eat) the child rather than marry the parents. An idea very prominent in Hamlets own mind when he says "To be or not to be", showing he has thoughts of ending his life. Swift seems to promote to some extent the usefulness of children with no certain father, but limits this at being able to kill and eat them more easily. He encourages males to have children by numerous partners, anticipating none of the problems which Hamlet is experiencing to arise in Ireland. A very relevant difference between 'A Modest Proposal' and 'Hamlet' is the class difference. Marriage is essential in the higher nobility, such as Hamlet is involved in, and although affairs were obviously commonplace, they were much little discussed. In the lower classes marriage was not so essential to status, as they had little to start with, and so it was often disregarded. However this seemed not to have made much difference to the actual happiness of either situation presented. Swift, like Shakespeare, blurs the roles of members within the family, and shows us the importance of every part, and relationship functioning. Swift also writes 'A Modest Proposal' as a warning to the Irish lower classes to protect their own, and the shocking consequences which may occur if they ignore him. 1 Kennedy
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