Is Swift really a misanthrope?

The word ‘misanthrope’ means hater of mankind or the one who has a distrust for human character in general. To some extent Gulliver directs his satires towards the meanness of human being.

The allegation of 'misanthropy' has been levelled against Swift in context of his book 'Gulliver's Travels'. In Book I, Gulliver is a ship’s surgeon who sails from Bristol. After a shipwreck he sails to an island, Lilliput. Gulliver has talked of the selfishness of man everywhere(he reduces the people to the height of six inches). In Book II, Gulliver is in Brobdingnag, where in front of the tall people he seems to be a Lilliputian.  The book is replete with instances showing human vanities.  Gulliver has used the words: “the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.” In Book III, Gulliver laughs at the futile efforts of scientists and philosophers.  In the flying island named Lagodo, he watches scientists engaged in foolish pursuits. The charge of misanthropy is proven more in case of Book IV. In Book IV, Swift has described the country of Houyhnhnms, who are horses blessed with reason. The author here contrasts their rational society with the beastiality of Yahoos, who are beasts in shape of human beings. 

 In his essay 'A Modest Proposal' Swift writes that the Irish should reduce their burden by selling their surplus children to the rich.  His book 'A Tale of Tub' is also considered a proof towards Swift's misanthropy. 

So what do you think: Is Swift really a misanthrope? Share your views.


8 comments:

VirusHead said...

He was a satirist.

Satire is aimed at recognition and social change, but leery of literalist preaching.

His satire is social critique in court jester form.

Tomas said...

I think that any musing about who Swift was will make Guliver just the gathering of the letters on the paper, meanwhile he is one of us...and I bet that many of those, who are familiar with Guliver, have no idea about Swift. We can discuss for a long, but that wouldn't change a jot.
It is a bit hard to talk plainly while writing with the dictionary in hand in language I didn't hear on my daily walk, but I hope you will understand me clearly. The Art heroes never knows their fathers. Such is the destiny of the artist. He dies for to live in his artworks and thus Swift looks at us for we will discover Guliver by looking at ourselves.
That is the application of a theory to the practice. I think the above is only way to understand though something indeed in case we don't want to think into the meaningless war of words.

Not the painters, but the colors talk in the Fine Arts Museums for we could enjoy not the canvases but the sky above us.
Swift was such and such, but Guliver boldly smell the flowers and call us to follow him - to do the same: not to muse but to live.

Amritbir Kaur said...

Welcome to my blog, VirusHead and thanks for sharing your views. I fully agree with what you have said. This was the reply that I was looking for. I left the post open-ended deliberately as I wanted to collect varied opinions.
We cannot indeed call Swift a misanthropist due to this very reason.

Amritbir Kaur said...

Thanks you Sir Tomas for participating. I appreciate your views and look forward to your insightful comments.

Anonymous said...

i think swift is realistic .he believes in facts of life.IN his novel,he is portraying a harsh picture of human thoughts n their lifestyles in a very eloquent manner.

Anonymous said...

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poojamalikchoudhary said...

It will be an extreme statement, in my view, to call Swift a misanthrope.
We have seen in the book 4, in which Gulliver visits the land of Houyhnhnm, that Gulliver is idealizing the Houyhnhnm but at the same time he presents before us the image of Don Pedro who is a human and still he shows the redeeming qualities of a rational and virtuous man.
The Houyhnhnm represent extreme virtue and angelic qualities which is not a characteristic trait of humans. Human beings have a fusion of angel and the devil but they somehow manage to overcome the devil and evolve in life. Thus, by defending Don Pedro de Mendez, Swift shows that he is just a satirist and he is trying to correct the flaws of humans.

Turab Hussain Bangash said...

while reading the whole novel i come to the conclusion that swift is not a misanthrope he was just a satirist and his job was to reform society. if he was misanthrope he will not have written this book. and beside this how he has presented don pedro so its clear that swift was not misanthrope....... thanks for reading have a fun....

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