Creating Reason in the "Age of Reason": An Analysis of the Life and Times of Jonathan Swift.

Essay by amace840University, Bachelor'sB+, November 2005

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The "thinkers" of our society have always been criticized of reacting in extreme ways, and "during the ... Age of Reason (generally considered from 1650-1850), the literary genre known as the comedy of manners attempted to combat such pernicious either-or ways of thinking. As a form of satire, the comedy of manners ridiculed human vices with the aim of producing an improvement in [behavior]" (Maas). The most important functions in society are thought to be religion and government, and such foundations were completely corrupted and disoriented as early as the late 1600s in England. During the Jonathan Swift's writing of Gulliver's Travels in the 1720s, England was undertaking a lot of political changes. George I, a Hanoverian prince of Germany, had taken the British throne in 1714 after the death of Queen Anne. George I was not a bad or repressive king, but he was unpopular. King George had gotten to the throne with the help of the Whig party, and his Whig ministers subsequently used their gains in power to oppress members of the opposition Tory party.

Swift, being a Tory since 1710, bitterly resented the Whig actions against his colleagues, who often faced imprisonment, exile or worse. Understanding the political rivalry, and Swift's view of the social dysfunction in Europe, can help the reader of Swift's works to better understand his satire.

Swift was born in Ireland of English parents in 1667 and, according to his own account; he was stolen away by his nurse and taken to England when he was a year old. Swift did not see his mother again until he was twenty-two years old. Victoria Glendinning doubts that he was 'stolen away' on the grounds that autobiography can be deliberately deceptive and in Swift's case, over dramatized. He was sent to boarding school in...