Swift’s Mirror of Hypocrisy

Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels is a piece of work that functions tirelessly as a critique of the Enlightenment period. He uses satire and parody as a means to illuminate the faults of the captivity and travel narratives that rose as genres at the time. With Bacon’s “New Atlantis,” the projection of a perfect Utopian society allowed for individuals to imagine the possibility of life and space where all things were perfect and everything ran smoothly. While this is a great idea, one that I feel all of us wish were true, Swift not only laughs at the presentation of this idea amongst imperialism, genocide, and booming racism, but he also forces the reader to meet head to head with its’ irony.

In chapter three of part one, he writes:
“I sworn and subscribed to the Articles with great Cheerfulness and Contentment, although some of them were not so honorable as I could have wished;…… Whereupon my Chains were immediately unlocked, and I was at full liberty.” (44)

Swift here presents a passive aggressive tone that strikingly targets the hypocrisy found within Bacon’s suggested Utopian society during a time where freedom for all is not seen as that important than the freedom of some. Swift juxtaposes the words “chains” and “liberty” in the same sentence, sarcastically alluding to the impossibility of being ultimately free while still bound by the chains of authorial oppression. He capitalizes “Cheerfulness” and “Contentment” as a means to heighten these proposals with the purpose of bringing them down to sheer reality. Swift wants the readers to recognize that while these ideas are high and mighty; while you may be seen as an excellent person for proposing these ideas- with no execution in the real world, these ideas mean nothing. Treat here is mirroring reality amongst the reflection of hypocrisy.

-Angelica Costilla

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Narrow Principles: A Critique of England

In Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, the narrator goes through captivity by royalty multiple times, and his narrative is one of awe for both Lilliput and Brobdingnag. On page 125, Gulliver describes an episode during which he expects that the “Opinion of the English Reader” will be lessened in regards to the King of Brobdingnag. This very scene is a harsh criticism upon the human race in Europe for delighting in machines of war and injury. Gulliver, in offering to make gunpowder for the king, is refused in what he calls his “nice unnecessary scruple” that would have made the king the “Master of the Lives, the Liberties, and the Fortunes of his People.” Although the character of Gulliver is aghast at this refusal and believes that any European would never have turned down such an offering, the author in no way believes such a refusal to be the result of “narrow Principles and short Views.” Swift is pointing out the cruel bloodlust and thirst for power that the monarch and nobles of Europe have at this time. Unlike the utopian fiction of the time, Gulliver’s Travels at face value presents England as an utopia in comparison to these fantastical lands, but this interpretation is completely misleading. The complete surprise and disgust of Gulliver when he realizes that the king is faithful to his people and does not wish to have complete power over them is total irony intended to show that Swift is not criticizing the made up country of Brobdingnag, but England itself. When he describes the small minded principles of the king and criticizes his preference of swift justice and mercy opposed to drawn out political scandals, a very clear picture of England’s political problems is presented. Using the ideas of utopian fiction and captivity narratives, Swift completely turns these works of literature upside down and points to the flaws of those in England being awed and upset by the images of so-called savages and barbarians. Describing an, albeit fictional, foreign society in which political games and power plays appear to be crimes is Swift’s way of presenting his readers with a society that is better than their own. Gulliver is the exact type of Englishman Swift despises, and it is his criticisms and small mindedness that our author is warning to be detrimental to society in this passage.

-Meredith Leonardo

Take Bacon’s Utopia Away Swiftly

By: Katherine Hernandez

Jonathan Swift is known famously for using satire in the novel Gulliver’s Travels in order to convey the foolishness and hypocritical nature of the utopian society that is painted by Francis Bacon. Swift uses irony in Gulliver’s Travels in a very clever way; by depicting the obviously fictions adventures of Gulliver in a way that comes across to readers as perhaps a self-narrative he is able to capture the flawed philosophy of imperialism during his era in almost a seamless manner. What he demonstrates goes directly against the utopian ideology that Francis Bacon sheds light on. By mimicking what Bacon would consider a perfect society, Swift uses satire to shed light on a philosophy that is actually far from perfect and in fact could be held to a mockery considering the fact that during this time period the exact opposite was occurring during the process of colonization. The equality and abundance of food that is mentioned in The New Atlantis is actually the exact opposite of what is occurring in the world.

 

In Gulliver’s Travels a paragraph that demonstrates the irony that exists witch in the text reads as the following, “ I sworn and subscribed to the Articles with great Cheerfulness and Contentment, although some of them were not so honorable as I could have wished;…… Whereupon my Chains were immediately unlocked, and I was at full liberty.” (Part 1, Chapter 3, Page 44)

 

I found this quote especially ironic. Swift demonstrates how in Bacon’s Utopia, something as seamless as a disagreement between morals and cultures can come to an ultimate conclusion in which the parties may live amongst each other in harmony, however, Swift is very much aware how that is not occurring during his time. In fact, in the real world, there is a lack of regard for other cultures, for their rules and their ways of living. The Opposite of what happens in a reality takes place, however, in a utopian society the Cheerful and Contentment that is expressed may, in fact, be sincere and liberty shall be gifted to those that follow the ideal. However, in the real world that is not the case. Thus we are met with the use of irony and satire in Swift’s novel. It shows how Swift plants his feet firmly in the realistic ways people treat other people, which is in stark contrast to Francis Bacon, who believes in the good people can have towards one another and eventually a world that is built on compromise and equality for all, an ideology that Swift mocks throughout the novel.

Perfection? Not Even Once.

Esther Quintanilla

Gulliver’s Travels by Johnathan Swift offers an interesting narrative of Lemuel Gulliver who swears that the stories of his travels are true. Swift is known for using satire in his works to provoke thoughts that aren’t as popular to the masses. This is evidently seen in Gulliver’s Travels, particularly in that of the description of the “utopia” that was fantasized over by different writers and thinkers, much like Francis Bacon. Swift makes an effort to poke fun at the unrealistic ideas that are put at the forefront by Bacon and rebuttals his ideas by pointing out that if there were such a thing as a perfect utopia, humans would end up ruining it.

Bacon, in The New Atlantis, mainly focuses on the description of the seemingly perfect utopia of Atlantis. He stresses the equality, beauty, and abundance of food that is found in Atlantis and forgets that there can be other nations besides Atlantis. In his article, there is no mention of any other regions or nations besides Atlantis; Solomon even goes as far as to disguise the kingdom of Atlantis in order to keep it safe—“For the several employments and offices of our fellows, we have twelve that sail into foreign countries under the names of other nations (for our own we conceal), who bring us the books and abstracts and patterns of experiments of all other parts” (Bacon 1279). Bacon refuses to name the nations of which they are stealing ideas from, the reader can only assume that it is from Spain and the other powerful nations in Europe.

Gulliver, however, does mention a different nation when he talks about Mildendo, a so-called utopian metropolis of Lilliput— “Now in the midst of these intestine disquiets, we are threatened with an invasion from the island of Blefusco, which is the other great Empire of the universe, almost as large and powerful as this of his Majesty” (pg. 84).

Mildendo is the equivalent to Atlantis in this novel, but Gulliver writes about it in a completely different light. To contrast the description of Atlantis, which is described to be absolutely beautiful with high towers and universal language, Meldendo is contained by five-hundred-foot tall walls with the alleys and lanes only being twelve to eighteen inches wide—not very impressive when compared to Atlantis. Swift is, once again, satirizing the ideas of perfection and how some things just may be too good to be true. This is seen time and time again when Swift makes fun of humanity for needing perfection.

Swift does not believe in the goodness of people. In various works of his, such as A Modest Proposal and Gulliver’s Travels, he talks about how humanity strives for perfection but does not have the ability to keep it perfect. Swift pokes fun at the human idea of perfection and blames us for the lack of it. In Gulliver’s Travels, the philosophers would rather humans try to go to space than infect Mildendo—“…[our philosophers] would rather conjecture that you dropped from the moon, or one of the stars; because it is certain, that in a hundred mortals of your bulk would, in a short time, destroy all the fruits and cattle of his Majesty’s dominations” (pg. 84).

Swift is criticizing the human desire for perfection because we are unable, and possibly even unwilling, to take care of it when it is right in front of us.

Paraiso

The painting by Theodore Gericault, “Evening: Landscape with an Aqueduct,” seems to be a near close depiction of William Wordsworth’s poem “Lines Written At a Small Distance From My House, and Sent by My Little Boy to the Person to Whom they are Addressed.”  It is as if Gericault’s paintbrush is taking direction from Wordsworth’s poetic expression.  

In the painting we see a vision of perfection through the depiction of a day filled with leisure and great weather.  There are several people swimming along the aqueduct, simply basking in what seems to be an air of peace.  Similarly, in the poem, Woodsworth’s first words are that it was a “mild day of March.”  The word “mild” meaning that the climate is neither too hot nor too cold, setting the tone for how one may feel tempered when reading the rest of the poem.  The same feeling is evoked fromt the painting, where the sun light’s casting against the landscape and buildings, indicates the hour of dusk, hence indicating that a mildness has taken over that part of the day.

There also seems to be a Utopian fantasy taking place in both the art piece and the poem, when Woodsworth says: “Love, now an Universal birth/from heart to heart is stealing/from earth to man/from man to earth/-it is the hour of feeling.”  Now, instead of looking at the art piece first, if the lines are read first, and the art piece is looked at thereafter, one will see that a perfect world has been projected.  The illusion that “love” has been born on a “universal” level, meaning that everyone and everything is exuding a perfect sense of happiness and love, is entirely the definition of a Paradise world.  In the picture we see men inside of the water, casually relaxing and enjoying the themselves. That part of the art piece could even literally have those words “From Earth to man, from man to Earth -It is the hour of feeling” placed in that specific spot on the painting.

The combination of the perfect weather and the gentlemen’s’ sense of peace in Gericault’s painting goes quite well with Wordsworth last line when he says, “for this one day we’ll give to idleness.”  In other words, instead of carrying on with work, which is the daily protocol for survival, both painter and poet are saying that, instead, not worrying is the perfect way to enjoy life, and in that sense, the survival of one’s inner spirit is most important.

-Maricela (Marcy) Martinez

 

The price of Utopia

The Houyhnhnms are described by Gulliver as a sort of superior, intellectual race of what he describes as talking horses and while Gulliver extensively describes this utopian like society as ideal, I believe Swift was not attempting to show a perfect world we should all be living in, but reflect on our own society and accept the flaws as they come. The citizens are incredibly intellectual, reasoning, philosophical and most notably, emotionless. The first three characteristics without question what people think of when imaging a perfect or utopian society where they are “wholly governed by reason.” Gulliver explains in an incredibly long paragraph how in the Houyhnhnms land there are no pickpockets, robbers, liars, cheaters etc. emphasizing even more how ideal this country is being portrayed as.  However the horses are not perfect and its seen clearly with an intense and arguably . Throughout the reading the Houynhnhnms express dislike towards the yahoos and even talk about exterminating them as they continue to bad mouth the Yahoo’s. These ideas of genocide and war are not something that an ideal sociey would be hung up on but yet all the Houyhnhnms share that quality of disliking Yahoo’s.

But above all the Houyhnhnms main quality seems to be of an emotionless, heartless species focused only on themselves and judging the Yahoo’s for being inferior. I believe that what Swift is trying to tell us about the Houyhnhnms is that its impossible to reach this for several reasons. First he lets us know how the human race could never reach this as this utopian like country is run by horses. Second the horses are too focused on intellect, progress and equality to be distracted by what distracts humans. The horses laugh when Gulliver explains the english parliament and they even go as far as calling the English ‘Animals’ a nicely crafted ironic comparison coming from the horses. Swift was in no way trying to get us to be like the Houyhnhnms as he portrays them as being somewhat too intellectual and we can see how that lead them to this utopian society but even then they are faced with problems and issues that arise from them being emotionless horses and in some ways Swift is telling us than even Utopia (or what Gulliver thinks is utopia)  is not perfect.

 

-Noel Nevarez

 

Utopia or not?

I disagree that human kind would be happier if it could think and behave the way the Houyhnhnms do.

While Swift uses the Houyhnhnms as a Utopia for what society should be like the phrase itself is, in my perspective, an indicator as to how ridiculous the concept itself sounds. It’s ridiculous in the way that it’s not something society can obtain; it overall seems like a made up concept in order to expose what is wrong with the way 18th century Europe was coming along. The attraction of the Houyhnhnms was that they possessed reason and that their society is envisioned through a common wealth, indicating a contrast to how Europe and the New World were. These two places are driven by authority figures and are constructing a society based on lies and demands rather than as a unit with every citizen involved. While the Houyhnhms’ Utopia is “as good as it gets” is it realistic?

This reminds me of 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes since his novel Leviathan goes further into deconstructing the idea that people could live in harmony through a common wealth. When people are put on equal ground they, according to Hobbes, will soon compete with one another in order to strive in society since they do not have structure in society as to how things should be run. Adding the increase in competition society may enter a state of war in which they no longer live in harmony but rather a contrast of the Utopia envisioned in Gulliver’s Travels. Ultimately, that is why it becomes crucial to have authority figures so that a society does not have to enter a state of war and thus have a better chance in living with the fundamental laws of nature in order to maintain peace within themselves and their society.

 

– Kristy Frausto

The Royal Society’s Conquest for Knowledge

Like all advancements in culture, there are political implications that shaped the Royal Society when Charles II reigned. The terms science and exploration tell us the implications it had on the scientific world. However, these terms also reflected that at the time, science and reasoning were put on a hierarchy, which in turn shaped the way people thought about the world around them. The important thing to note here is that, as a western civilization, they were not the first to put these terms on a pedestal.

The image of the Royal Society that includes Francis Bacon has references that could be expressed as intertextualities about the classical times of the Roman and Greek empires. Judging by Bacon’s “New Atlantis” there were many ideas of, not only a utopic vision, but also the importance of functionality. The narrator’s litany that is offered by the wise man he meets represents the ideal world for a learning environment. Indeed, the location is fictional, but like all utopic visions, it represents the ideal. It is significant to see how the characteristics of the location are emphasized by their function, even if they are just for ornament. When the narrator lists the “beasts” that will be there for both visual pleasure and dissection, it is stated matter-of-factly to further emphasize the idealistic characteristics that would make the civilization whole. This phase of praising science and reasoning seems to be like a fashion, as if trying to emulate the classical times. This begs the question whether the Royal Society is doing it to allude to the classical times or to actually seek out knowledge. Furthermore, the importance of seeking a location like New Atlantis serves to recognize conquest of knowledge on a spatial format. I say conquest because this almost seems to justify the colonization of other lands in order to search for this idealistic pinnacle of learning—and even teaching.

 

–Cesar Ramirez

Defining A Bleak World: The Royal Society

Trapped in a state of modernity, Charles II and many others found themselves in despair that the entire construct of government began to flow with indecency, adultery, mistresses, the basic lusts of man. For the time, it must have felt much worse to feel like the world that once felt carefully crafted was slowly beginning to unravel. People were scared, intimidated, lost by a world that seemed to lose regulation for a moment. What could a king do then? The beauty of language and human conscience, is giving definition and establishing rules that technically do not exist. The universe, unbound by labels or true laws, does at least seem to follow a certain schematic of physics, and science seemed to be the way to analyze the one comforting aspect of existence. The Royal Society was born to find this comfort, to establish order in a dreadfully random world.

This lust for knowledge, more towards definition, is perfectly described in Sir Bacon’s tale of “The New Atlantis”. It is important to note how despite being a utopian paradise, this is not a place of complete bliss. Though beautiful, the description of the island lacks other things that would provide aesthetic or materialistic fulfillment. In the lack of said detail, Bacon has thus made clear what is important. Yes, the island has bountiful harvest and beauty, but gold and silver does not line every road, people cannot simply relax and are not merely blessed with knowledge. No, no, it was the fact that the people had the motivation and energy to experiment and test, to theorize and create. “The New Atlantis” is not merely a paradise, rather an intellectual’s dream. All the gold and all of the pleasures in the world will not fill a void where the universe is not defined. Instead what is essentially comes down to, is those blessed mentally will flourish and find their minds in constant pleasure at both the freedom and access to tools to expand their knowledge. Scholars are in pleasure of having definition in their life. Intelligence, knowledge, these are the key treasures to Bacon, and though religion has been an element that has sharply decreased its influence on the Royal Society, one can see that the main point of the organization is to bring greater understanding, to provide laws in a place where things seem to be unruly and lost. Science, in this case, illuminates a bleak world, just as long as you are willing to be in pursuit of more and more.

 

-William Fernandez

Utopia: Then and Now

The original goal of the Royal Society was to have an organization focused on scientific discoveries as well as making them relevant within society. Sir Frances Bacon envisioned a utopia where science is included and how it would become vital in advancing throughout centuries. This is a huge statement since science was still a controversial subject when met with religion. Stuff such as discoveries would indicate a world where religion does not have the answers or may even contradict ideas places by the puritan and Catholic Church.

Now, within the Royal Society, it not only continues to thrive as a noble-prize worthy organization but has expanded its’ study of the natural world. There seems to be fewer philosophical ideals since Philosophy does not lead to concrete facts; only inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning alone cannot explain discoveries such as those in astronomy and even chemistry. Science is not only respected but rather depended upon when advancing in the world; religion is now a separate matter due to both subjects questioning the legitimacy of their practices. While I’m all for philosophical viewpoints within a subject being studied it makes me wonder whether it’s philosophy that kept tensions rising for religious citizens? Would it have been possible to have these contemporary results of scientific discoveries if philosophy was a perspective still engraved in people’s minds? Women having involvement in the Royal Society is an accomplishment worth mentioning since it, Royal Society, was brought up to an group of the elite thus time being more accepting towards women in the field of science.

-Kristy Frausto