• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Pope, Swift and the age of reason.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Patty Brown ENL 4230 Dr. Cowlishaw July 15, 2003 Pope, Swift and The Age of Reason The 18th-century ushered in a new form of literature that focused on the importance of Reason. It was believed that through Reason man could reach perfection, thereby leading to the perfection of the world. An intellectual elite known as the Augustans endorsed this movement and coined the English Enlightenment "The Age of Reason." The contention that man is a rational animal capable of controlling his passion and emotion within the realm of Reason created a philosophical problem; with a society aware of their capacity of reason, how could corruption and absurdity pervade so much of human existence? This conundrum led to commentaries on reason from Augustan writers, Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift. Pope saw the issue as a struggle between chaos and order, believing that man did indeed have the ability to govern his life by reason; however, this ability was frequently not put into practice. Conversely, Swift prescribed to a more cynical view of this issue by discounting human being's ability to act in a rational manner. Pope's An Essay on Man, a discourse on the underlying philosophies of The Age of Reason, contends that humans, as the sole possessors of reason, are God's greatest creation. ...read more.

Middle

In Gulliver's third voyage to the land of Laputa, Swift seems to share Pope's assertion that there lies a danger in the wastefulness of pride in human nature; however, by his fourth voyage to the land of the Houyhnhnms, Swift paints a far more cynical picture of mankind as he reveals the barbarism of humanity. With Gulliver's arrival in Laputa, Swift aims his satirical artillery at eighteenth century academia. The device of an island that floats above the rest of the world represents Swift's belief that an excess of speculative reasoning disconnects man from the practical realities of life. The Laputans employed servants, known as "flappers," to strike them upon the mouths and ears in order to prompt their conversations. Gulliver realizes that "the minds of these people are so taken up with intense speculations, that they can neither speak, nor attend to the discourses of others, without being roused by some external taction upon the organs of speech and hearing" (161). Because the thoughts and minds of these people were so disengaged they were unable to perform simple tasks such as navigating through a room or even remaining balanced upon their own two feet. The ridiculousness of this overly intellectual culture demonstrates the negative aspect of a community so absorbed by their own personal illusions that they fail to serve the advancement of their society. ...read more.

Conclusion

Gulliver was horrified when he "could no longer deny that [he] was a real Yahoo in every limb and feature" (279). Rather than reasonably accepting his place in the chain of being, he is disgusted by his own species and chooses to identify with the Houynhmn culture, where he "enjoyed perfect health of body, and tranquility of mind" (289). With Gulliver's expulsion from the land of the Houyhnhms, it appears Swift is defending his initial argument that man's follies are a part of nature that cannot be simply reasoned away. It is only rational that the Houynhmns can exist without passion and emotion because they are horses; Gulliver, after all, is a human. The cynical twist, however, occurs when Gulliver returns to England. His refusal to reintegrate into human society suggests that the extent of mankind's barbarism and lack of Reason renders them undeserving of any sympathy. Gulliver confesses, "so horrible was the idea I conceived of returning to live in the society and under the government of Yahoos...degenerating into the vices and corruptions of my own species"(297). Pope's An Essay on Man and Swift's Gulliver's Travels both serve as a discourse on the capabilities and limitations of human Reason. The differences however, lay in the extent in which the two authors believe this Reason benefits society. While Pope strongly maintains, "Whatever is, is Right," Swift, as seen through the emotional demise of Gulliver, suggests what is, is terribly wrong; that the human race is barbaric and hopeless. 1 Brown ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Jonathan Swift section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Jonathan Swift essays

  1. Satirical Pre 19th century Poetry

    Furthermore, Wolsey's actions at the Calais Conference have been included in this poem, line 57, 'Besy, besy, besy, and besynes agaynes!' This is irony as John Skelton is referring to the disgraceful example of business that the Calais Conference set to Britain.

  2. How does Swift satirise human behaviour within Book IV of Gulliver's Travels?

    Swift uses horses as to satire human behaviour due to their passive nature and their role his society and the workforce. This creates an ideal basis for the Houyhnhnms treatment of the Yahoo's, therefore giving Gulliver an experience which he had not encountered in the other books.

  1. Compare book 4 of Gulliver's Travels with the rest of the text.

    When he is in a bedroom with a few maids of honour, he is disgusted when they begin to undress in front of him because of their size and physical grossness.ix The voice of Swift, behind Gulliver, is saying "look at yourself, especially if you are a girl, and most

  2. This paper explains that Gulliver's voyage to the land of the

    bodies, he is not attracted to them but rather disgusted by their enormous skin pores and the sound of their torrential urination. He is generally startled by the ignorance of the people here-even the king knows nothing about politics. More unsettling findings in Brobdingnag come in the form of various animals of the realm that endanger his life.

  1. Gulliver's Travels, Original Sin and the imagery of size

    which is expressed in Gulliver's Travels uncongenial and repugnant - and sometimes so alien that they did not understand it at all. He goes on to suggest that the common reading of Gulliver's Fourth Voyage, in which the Houyhnhnms are understood as standing for some rational and wholly admirable ideal, is mistaken.

  2. The importance of the Fens as a surrounding context in Graham Swift's Waterland

    of phlegm, flooding the body of Henry Crick, 'Phlegm enveloped him...And now it's choking him, filling the cavities of his lungs, welling in his throat. He's escaped the flood, but he's drowning.' In certain places in Waterland Swift uses a diegetic narrative, this term refers to the world that the characters inhabit as much as the plot.

  1. The world of Pope's satires

    of the Dunciad , �Full ten years slandered, did he once reply?� (l 374). However throughout his entire literary career Pope was the subject of constant literary attack. So much so that the body of critical literature against him was sufficient to earn itself the name �Popiana�.

  2. Discuss satire in Jonathan Swift's novel Gulliver's Travels - Part IV.

    Ironically, his only friends at home were the horses. In Twayne's Masterworks Studies Gulliver's Travels The Politics of Satire Ronald Knowles analyzes the use of satire that Jonathan Swift used in the novel. His major focus is on how Swift employed the Houyhnhnms as a satirical device to show the

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work