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Jonathan Swift (1667--1745). Life Introduction. Jonathan Swift, a posthumous child ( 遗腹子 ), was born in Dublin, Ireland, of an English family, which had important connections but little wealth.

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life introduction
Life Introduction
  • Jonathan Swift, a posthumous child (遗腹子), was born in Dublin, Ireland, of an English family, which had important connections but little wealth.
  • Through the generosity of an uncle, he was educated at Kilkenny Grammar School and then Trinity College in Dublin.
  • Between 1689 and 1699 he worked as a private secretary to a distant kinship Sir William Temple, a retired diplomat.
  • And there he also received a first-rate education in politics through contact with Temple and many other well-known politicians, learning much about the vice, hypocrisy, intrigues, deception and corruption in the political world.
swift s literary position and works
Swift’s Literary Position and Works

Literary Position

  • Swift is one of the greatest masters of English prose.
  • Swift is a master satirist. Even today, he is still regarded as a national hero in Ireland.


  • The Tale of Tub (1704)
  • Battle of the Books (written in 1679, published in 1704)
  • Gulliver’s Travels (1726), his greatest satiric work
swift s concerns in his works
Swift’s Concerns in his Works
    • Moral attributes
  • Swift was a man of great moral integrity and social charm. He had a deep hatred for all the rich oppressors and a deep sympathy for all the poor and oppressed.
    • Human nature
  • His understanding of human nature is profound. In his opinion, human nature is seriously and permanently flawed. To better human life, enlightenment is needed, but to redress it is very hard. He intends not to condemn but to reform and improve man nature and human institutions, there is often an under or overtone of helplessness and indignation.
swift s artistic features
Swift’s Artistic Features
    • Satire
  • His satire is usually masked by an outward gravity and an apparent earnestness which renders his satire all the more powerful.
    • Simplicity and Directness
  • Swift is always most unsurpassed in the writing style of simple, direct, precise prose. He defined a good style as “proper words in proper places.” Clear, simple, concrete diction, uncomplicated sentence structure, economic and conciseness of language mark all his writings—essays, poems and novels.
introduction to gulliver s travels
Introduction to Gulliver’s Travels
  • Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan’s best fictional work, was published in 1726, under the title of Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, by Samuel Gulliver. The book contains four parts, each dealing with one particular voyage during which Gulliver meets with extraordinary adventures on some remote island after he has met with shipwreck of piracy of some other misfortune.
part 1
Part 1
  • The first part tells about his experience in Lilliput, where the inhabitants are only six inches tall), twelve times smaller than the normal human beings. The emperor believed himself to be the delight and terror of the universe, but it appeared quite absurd to Gulliver who

was twelve times as tall as he. In his account of the two parties in the country, distinguished by the use of high and low heels, Swift satirizes the Tories and the Whigs in England.

  • Religious disputes were laughed at in an account of a problem which divided the Lilliputians: “ Should eggs be broken at the big end or the little end?”
part 2
Part 2
  • In the second part, Gulliver is left alone in Brobdingnag where people are not only ten times taller and larger than ordinary human beings, but also superior in wisdom. Gulliver now found himself a dwarf among men sixth feet in height. The king, who regarded Europe as if it were an anthill.
part 3
Part 3
  • The third part deals with mainly with his accidental visit to the flying Island, where the philosophers and projectors devote all their time and energy to the study of some absurd problems. Their scientists are engaged in projects for exacting sunbeams out of cucumbers, turning ice into gunpowder and making cloth from cobweb. It is a parody on scholastics and projectors.
part 4
Part 4
  • The last part is a most interesting account of his discoveries in the Houyhnhnm land, where horses are endowed with reason and all good and admirable qualities, and are the governing class.
  • Contrary to the Houyhnhnms, the Yahoos (粗鲁之人)possess every conceivable evil. They are malicious, spiteful, envious, unclean and greedy. Gulliver admires the life and ways of the horses, as much as he is disgusted with the Yahoos, whose relations remind him of those existing in English society to such a degree that he shudders at the prospect of returning to his native.
swift s skill in gulliver s travels
Swift’s Skill in Gulliver’s Travels
  • In structure, the four parts make an organic whole, with each contrived upon an independent structure, and yet complementing the others and contributing to the central concern of study of human nature and life.
  • The first two parts are generally considered the best paired-up work. Here, man is observed from both ends of a telescope.

The exaggerated smallness in part 1 works just as effectively as the exaggerated largeness in part 2. The similarities between human beings and the Lilliputians and the contrast between the Brobdingna giants and human beings both bear reference to the possibilities of human state. Part 3 furthers the criticism of the western civilization and deals with false illusion about science, philosophy, history and even immortality. The last part leads the reader to a fundamental questions: What on earth is a human being?

previewing work for a modest proposal
Previewing Work for A Modest Proposal


  • What is the narrator’s proposal? Do you think that it is modest?
  • How do you understand the subtitle?
  • What tone is used here? Illustrate your points with some examples from the text.
analysis of a modest proposal
Analysis of A Modest Proposal
  • Outline (4 parts)
  • Part 1: Para1-7

(the present situation in Irelandexpect a proposal to solve the problem of poor children beggars)

  • Part 2: Para 8-19

(detailing his proposal)

  • Part 3: Para 20-28

(illustrating the advantages of his proposal)

  • Part 4: Para 29-33

(supposing an objection to his proposal )

part 115
Part 1
  • What are the present situations in Ireland?

(Ireland falls in poverty and overpopulation. Poor female beggars with their children, people in Ireland lack of national loyalty, the English government is devouring Ireland)

  • What is Swift's attitude toward the beggars he describes in the opening paragraph?
  • Notice the narrator’s defense for his own proposal, and the statistical data. (his computation and economic mind)
part 216
Part 2
  • What is his proposal?

(Para 10. 120,000 children, among which 20,000 reserved for breed, only ¼ to be males; the remaining 100,000 be offered in sale)

the plump and fat children will be good for feeding and clothing

  • Appreciate Para 9,10,12,14,15
part 317
Part 3
  • The advantages of the proposal

a. it would greatly lessen the number of Papists

b. the poorer tenants will have something valuable of their own

c. the money gained from transaction will circulate in the country

d. their breeders will benefit from it directly

e. this food would bring great custom to taverns

f. this would be a great inducement to marriage

part 418
Part 4
  • Anticipating the objection of the proposal
  • Para 33

What is the narrator’s attitude in saying that “I have no children by which I can propose to get a single penny, the youngest being nine years old, and my wife past childbearing”?

With what social groups does he identify himself?


The speaker is a Protestant and a member of the Irish upper class. While he professes sympathy for the plight of the poor Catholic population, he also holds a fairly contemptuous opinion of them. He takes great pains to enumerate the advantages of his proposed project for the wealthy, who would presumably be called upon to implement it. Yet Swift's irony implicates this moneyed class for their monetary greed, their personal indulgence, their unflagging attention to their own self-interest, and their indifference to the state of the poor and the state of the nation as a whole.

  • With bitter irony, that the poverty of the Irish people should be relieved by the sale of their children, “at a year old”, as food for the rich, the narrator put forward his so-called perfect proposal .
  • With the utmost gravity, he set out statistics to show the revenue that would come if this idea were adopted.
  • The remedy, Swift took care to point out, was only for the kingdom of Ireland, not for the whole England.
  • The last proposal is a most heartbreaking piece of sarcasm that fiery indignation has given birth to and a most powerful blow at the English government’s policy of exploitation and oppression in Ireland.