Satire is one of the oldest tools in the literary world. This tool is designed to use slight of words to attack popular culture, politicians or royalty in an indirect way. The first golden age of satire occurred during the age of Enlightenment. It was during this time that “people viewed the satire and saw their faults magnified in a distorted reflection; they could see how ridiculous their behavior was and then correct that tendency in themselves”.
(Wheeler) Though the concept reached such heights in the Enlightenment, the power of satire is not lost in today’s literary world. In most any American newspaper, one can find the presence of political satire – poking fun or alluding to contempt of the current state of the political landscape. While most satire maintains a good-natured and playful tone, it has been known to cross lines of acceptability.
In Gulliver’s Travels Swift identifies several institutions through the various nations visited during Gulliver’s adventures throughout the world; “Mistakes committed by Ignorance in a virtuous Disposition, would never be of such fatal Consequence to the Publick Weal, as the Practices of a Man whose Inclinations led him to be corrupt, and had great Abilities to manage, and multiply, and defend his Corruptions” (I:6;7). In the first land visited, the land of Lilliput, the nation is at war with their neighbors Blefscu.
In this situation the resolution Swift designs is to have Gulliver steal the Blefscu fleet but then Gulliver refuses to have the nation become a province of Lilliput thereby making Gulliver a traitor; “That he had good Reasons to think you were a Big-Endian in your heart; and as Treason begins in the Heart, before it appears in Overt-Acts, so he accused you as a Traytor on that Account, and therefore insisted you should be put to death” (I:7;22). He is sentenced to blinding but escapes to Blefscu where he builds a raft.
The overall satire of these two nations signifies the conflicts between England and France but the issues at stake symbolize Protestants and Catholics and the resolution found by Gulliver and connoted by Swift make no real suggestions as to the real life conflict of these two since they both feel so strongly about the other one’s differences. Because of the ways in which Gulliver’s character is shown, and his implied position in the book, the reader gains insight into Swift’s opinion on organized Christianity.
As Gulliver refuses to make Blefscu a nation of Lilliput Swift is stating that he would not be led into temptation, even at the sight of his possible glorified image as seen of Lilliputians if he submitted to making Blefscu a nation; it is shown that strength of personal character comes from the character itself – not religion. Gulliver finds himself in the country of the Houyhnms in which horses are the rulers and humans or Yahoos are the basest form of existence. Here Gulliver finds himself enamored of the country’s lifestyle since the Houyhnms do not subtract their reason from their motive as Yahoos often do in view of nature.
In a court hearing of the Houyhnms however, Gulliver is ruled to be a Yahoo, albeit with intelligence, and is thus seen as a threat to their existence and way of life. After this adventure, Gulliver finds it difficult to return to his way of living with the Yahoos in England; “My Reconcilement to the Yahoo-kind in general might not be so difficult if they would be content with those Vices and Follies only, which Nature has entitled them to” (IV:12;14). This is Swift’s ultimate commentary on life in England as he compares them to creatures without reason. Gulliver then becomes a recluse which may be devised to be the resolution of the story.
Gulliver then spends a lot of his time avoiding his family and talking to the horses in the stables. This is a slight of Swift’s against human pride, and the resolution of the novel seems to portray a sense of balance between the ultimate goal of the Houyhnms and that of the imperfections, yet flexibility of the Yahoos; “But when I behold a Lump of Deformity, and Diseases both in Body and Mind, smitten with Pride, it immediately breaks all the Measures of my Patience” (IV:12) Not only in the element of political satire and the typically modernist cynicism about war and destruction does Gulliver’s Travels symbolize satire.
The scenes themselves represent the collage effect found in modern poetry (i. e. Ezra Pound) in that not only are the scenes representational but they are also cluttered with not only gags but also political spoofs (as witnessed in the court scenes in Lilliput when Gulliver is slightly chastised for behaving in the improper manner). Voltaire In Voltaire’s novel Candide, the theme of the absurd takes on new meaning. In the very beginning of the plot the absurd is obvious in the expolusion of Candide from the Baron’s castle for kissing Cunegonde.
The entire plot is filled with the ridiculous nature and circumstances of humanity. After Candide is forced into joining the Belgium army he quickly flees to Holland where he is confronted with the this very theme of the absurd; he discovers that the philosopher Dr. Pangloss, a very noted, and distinguished man is living in rags and begging. Not only this, but the extreme of the absurd in Voltaire’s writing is further portrayed when he writes that Dr. Pangloss is ridden with a venereal disease.
The novel is increasingly riddled with extreme absurd events ranging from his being beaten during the Spanish inquisition to his reunion with Cunegonde and their fleeing to Buenos Aires. The ultimate theme that is parallel with the absurd is that of countering optimism. Every step of Candide’s journey leaves him subject to horrendous acts of cruelty or bizarre twists of fate (as when he and his lover meet he brother but the encounter turns sour when he forbids their marriage). In every part of the world, Candide meets with absurd events that change the course of life.
Finally, at the end of the novel, Candide states that it is better to cultivate one’s own garden that to philosophize. This translates into being a master of one’s own fate and making one’s own choices, instead, as the theme of the absurd has defined, allowing fate to be in control. Frederick Douglass The Fourth of July is a supposed celebration of the liberation of America, and the its state of unfettered reality; to the slave, however, as expressed in Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass An American Slave the Fourth of July has the opposite meaning.
That is to say that because of the history of the life of a slave in American culture, the Fourth of July is not a day of omniscient freedom but merely a day of horrifying recognition of the life that slaves lead. Frederick Douglass reiterates to the crowd in his speech that the day is theirs, not his. He will have no part in the celebrations of a day in which his own freedom was denied him, and denied slaves across America. Douglass states that America is a land that is rich in heritance justice, liberty, prosperity and independence “bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me”.
This means that the Fourth of July is the white persons holiday in celebration for a supposed national day of freedom when in fact there should be no rejoicing as liberation is not fully realized in the American way of life. Douglass points out that it is a joke for him to have been requested to give a speech on such a day, for his own freedom was denied him by the country, as he states, “To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony.
Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today? ” In this sentiment, Douglass portrays his true feelings about giving this Fourth of July speech. To the slave then, the Fourth of July isn’t an empty holiday but one which fills the slave with disgust. It is unconscionable that slavery still exists and even more so that the nation has a freedom holiday when its occupants are in fact not free, but consist of people still shackled and sold into slavery.
The Fourth of July is merely a harrowing reminder to the slaves that their own freedom isn’t not prioritized into the nation’s consciousness and this in turn further ridicules the basic humanity of the slave, as Douglass writes, “Fellow citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions, whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are today rendered more intolerable by the jubilant shouts that reach them”. Douglass speaks towards the continual enslavement of a race while others are free.
Not just the men of the race either, but the entire race, women and children as well, and that the very idea of freedom is ridiculous when children are ‘bleeding’ and that these people, these slaves are merely forgotten in the uproar of jubilation during these festivities is a paradigm of how the nation treats the issue of slavery; that is, it is forgotten, is considered habit, is no more an issue than whether or not women should wear hats in church.
Douglass straightforwardly declares that the audience members themselves are somewhat brutes for rejoicing on such a day when there still exists slavery, when slaves are killed simply for learning to read and write. Douglass argues that the slave is a man, and as such, the Fourth of July should also be coincided with the unfettering of them. The Fourth of July to a slave is hollow in context and as Douglass writes, “There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven who does not know that slavery is wrong for him”.
The Fourth of July then does not equal a time in which to rejoice and take pride in one’s country, but to be ashamed that the country still incites slavery, still treats the race as secondary citizens, if citizens at all, and as Douglass so eloquently states, “What to the American slave is your Fourth of July I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim” The celebration degrades further the fact of slavery, because is boasts of liberty and yet the nation is not entirely free.
The celebration, as Douglass refers to it is a fraud, and its deception is that it is enacted with the definition of freedom when in reality such a term is non-applicable to America “at this very hour”. Faulkner William Faulkner’s influence on American writing was his unique narrative. At times in Faulkner’s stories he utilized character perspective in different chapters to carry the reader through the plot as in As I Lay Dying chapter two reflects one sentence “My mother is a fish” (Faulkner As I Lay Dying), which is spoken by the mentally challenged son of the story.
Faulkner presented the reader with this different style, sometimes a stream of consciousness writing but always using his characters to tell the story from their perspective so that the reader is forced to reason through the story objectively through a subjective narrative. This was Faulkner’s influence to American writing; forcing the reader to think for themselves.
Douglass, F.An American Slave. Online. 24 September 2007. < http://www. freemaninstitute. com/douglass. htm> Faulkner, W. As I Lay Dying. Modern Library New Edition. New York. 2000. Firth, C. H. The Political Significance of Gulliver’s Travels. London: Oxford University Press, 1919. Swift, Jonathon. Gulliver’s Travels. Signet Classics. 1999. Voltaire. Candide. Trans. John Butt. Penguin Classics. New York. 1995.