Satire in 18th Century Literature Works
The use of satire, which aimed at exposing the moral corruption andsuperficial follies that existed in the neoclassical British societywas quite common in literature works written during the 18thcentury. Different authors employed satire as a tool to callattention to the various shortcomings that existed in the society.Writers such as Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope employed differenttypes of satire to critic the rampant moral corruption withinsociety. This paper involves a study of Jonathan Swift`s, AModest Proposal and Alexander Pope’s, The Rapeof the Lock to allow an understanding of how these twowriters employed satire in their works.
Alexander Pope’s, poem, The Rape of the Lock employs satireto reflect the vanities and follies of affluent families in thesociety. The satire in Pope’s work makes use of a Horatian tone,which involves depicting society in a way that the viewers can easilysee the ridiculousness and foolishness of some of the actions withinthe society (Pope). Pope’s Horatiansatire is more delicate and employs a gentle type of ridicule to theevils in the society (Szwec par 2).Jonathan Swift, on the other hand, employs Juvenile Satire, which isquite brutal and harsh in tone. Swift’s, A Modest Proposal usesjuvenile satire to describe and attack the economic difference thatexisted between the rich and poor (Szwec par 3).The short story aims at ridiculing the evils of British colonisationin Ireland. The juvenile satirical tone relies on harshness andrealism to deliver the intended message.
Pope’s satirical style employs a playful tone that is mainlyillustrated by the poem’s dominant conflict, which is the theft,“rape” of Belinda’s lock. The use of the word rape and otherembroidered quotations illustrates mockery common in Horatian satire(Green 60). The issue at hand, which is thecutting of a lock also illustrate Horatian satire, as Pope explainsthe loss of the lock as one that is even detrimental to divinityitself.
Swift, on the other hand, is more brutal in his work. The shortstory is a model in the form of an economic proposal that emphasisesthe ruthless economic gain by the British during their colonisationof Ireland. Swift’s satirical proposal suggests that the IrishCatholic population should sell their offspring to escape poverty,which was quite rampant among the Irish people. The use of direct andrealistic quotations illustrates the various characteristics ofJuvenile satire (Green 62).
Both A Modest Proposal and TheRape of the Lock employ satire to express discontent inthe society. Both these works aim at promoting social change andreform. However, I believe Swift’s realistic and brutal tone ismore effective than Pope’s style. Although effective Pope’s styleis mainly meant to get the attention of aristocrats by showing themhow foolish their actions are. Swift`s approach, on the other hand,is quite political and is more likely to promote change due to thehigh instances of realism.
Green, Patricia. "The Golden Age of Satire: Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift." (2010): 58-72. Web.
Pope, Alexanedr. "The Rape of the Lock." n.d. Poetry Foundation. Web. 21 December 2016.
Szwec, Jonathan J. "Satire in 18th Century British Society: The Rape of the Lock and Jonathan Swift`s A Modest Proposal." Inquiries Journal 3.6 (2011). Web.