Thursday, December 1, 2011
Jonathan Swift and Anglo-Irish Satire
Jonathan Swift and Anglo-Irish Satire: As a literary genre, satire is perhaps one of the most effective tools for social commentators to use while critiquing society. In Jonathan Swift's eighteenth-century writings, a unique blend of irony and sarcasm is certainly present. By ridiculing some of the more pervasive problems in Anglo-Irish culture, such as poverty and prostitution, Swift seeks to shame his readers (fellow countrymen) into improving Britain's lot. For example, in his 1729 A Modest Proposal, Swift famously argued that Ireland's poor ought to sell their children as food to the wealthier classes in British society. In doing so, the poor would eradicate their biggest economic burden while simultaneously feeding others. Swift even outlines a variety of ways to prepare children for cooking, so as to obtain maximum flavor potential. This kind of political satire not only mocked British policies toward Ireland's poor, but also specifically derided the methodologies of noted seventeenth-century English economist William Petty. In fact, some of Petty's early ideas contributed to the development of modern economic concepts like the "division of labor" and the "labor theory of value." Yet Swift merely understood Petty to be a bureaucratic pawn in Oliver Cromwell's government: someone who fudged socioeconomic data to support public initiatives.