The Established Concept Of Humanity English Literature Essay

Published:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

"Satire . . . should be true up to a certain point" wrote George Eliot. The finest and most profound satire almost always has a large degree of feasible truth to it. In satire, vices, follies, exploitation, and inadequacies are held up to ridicule, preferably with the intent of shaming individuals and society itself into convalescence. 17th and 18th century English satire in particular, strived at the "amendment of vices" [2] . In this essay I wish to examine how writers of this epoch, such as Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) and John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester (1647-1680), satirised the very nature of man, society and to what affect this method enlightened its audience.

The literary period in which the above quote was composed was framed by specific and momentous historical events. It began with the end of The Protectorate and the return of the Stuarts to the English throne in 1660 and concluded around 1760. The literary period itself includes the Restoration Age (1660-1700) and the Augustan Age, (1700-1750). England underwent a transformation at the outset of the Restoration, in strong riposte against the despotism of Puritanism. The period was distinguished by a resurgence in scientific thought as well as investigation. Literature was typically didactic or satirical in nature, mainly to demonstrate a defiant stand against the injustices of the time. The work's main aim was either to instruct some moral, religious, political, or practical lesson or to ridicule and attack some aspect of contemporary life. England was undergoing a great deal of political shuffling during this time. George I, had acquired his throne with the support of the Whig party, and his Whig ministers subsequently used their substantial gains in power to coerce members of the opposition Tory party. Jonathan Swift, for example, had been a Tory since 1710, and bitterly begrudged the Whig conduct against his peers, who often faced exile or worse. Understanding how events in Europe and England led to this political rivalry can help the reader of Swift and Wilmot better understand their satire.

Jonathan Swift is considered one of the utmost of Anglo-Irish satirists, and one of the foremost to practise progressive journalistic satire. For example, A Modest Proposal, published in 1729 in retort to the deteriorating situation in Ireland, is conceivably the most acerbic and most cutting of all Swift's tracts, proposing that impoverished Irish parents be persuaded to sell their own children as food. The pamphlet did not scandalise or incense modern readers as Swift anticipated. Its financial aspect was deemed as a great hoax and its more acute criticisms ignored. England's prohibitive policies had steered Ireland and its populace into destitution, which greatly infuriated Swift. His Ireland was a nation that had been effectively ruled by England for almost 500 years. Denied unification with England in 1707 (while Scotland was granted it), Ireland continued to languish under English trade embargoes and realised the dominance of its own Parliament in Dublin was exceedingly constrained. He countered the incapacitating results of English fiscal and political discriminations in a large corpus of tracts, essays, and satirical compositions, together with the perpetually celebrated Gulliver's Travels.

In Gulliver's Travels, Swift postulates over the defects in human social order overall, particularly in English society. The novel operates as a derisive satire, and Swift guarantees his readers that it is mutually jocular as well as critical, persistently condemning British and European society through its metaphors of imaginary realms. The vigour of the work resides in its portrayal of the human condition and its habitually reproachful, but intermittently optimistic outline of the potential for humanity to harness in its more sordid instincts. Swift believed a robust Church of England was crucial in maintaining the stability of power in English government. During his lifetime, he considered that institutions such as the church and parliament had to be resilient in order to tame human propensity toward chaos and vice. This idea was very much explored in Gulliver's Travels. Over the years, however, Swift came to consider the Tories being as culpable as the Whigs for engaging in partisan politics, grappling over minor concerns and bringing the government to an impasse. Swift lampooned their miserly and petty politics in Part I of Gulliver's Travels, where the Lilliputian successor (who epitomises George II) has to limp about with one short heel and one high one as a compromise amid the two parties that sport different heights of heels.

John Wilmot, the 2nd earl of Rochester alongside Swift composed some of the most unsurpassed lyrics and satires in English literature. One of the most adroit poets of the Restoration era and a pioneer of English verse satire, Wilmot, more often referred to as Rochester, was as admired amongst his peers for his atheism and the lewd milieu of his poetry as he was for his consummate verse technique. His body of work was extolled by many, as it was also reviled for its pornographic content. Poet Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) avowed that "The Earle of Rochester was the only man in England that had the true veine of Satyre." [3] One of the youngest and most attractive of Charles II's courtiers, Rochester was hallowed by the king. His penchant for drinking, brawling, and lasciviousness, however, led to numerous expulsions from court. In his satires, he becomes a bard of cynicism, ethically piqued, enticed to schism and paradox, but unremittingly in pursuit for the ceaseless truths promised by faith and for the assurances of love, camaraderie and power.

-An awareness of Rochester's court environs is valuable in appreciating his verse. Charles II had been restored to the throne after his years in exile a pragmatist, without delusion and well-versed in "the black political arts of Machiavellian statecraft." [4] He manipulated and teased the inadequacies of parliament and his own courtiers. Deceit and occultation were ubiquitous at court at this time."Few ministers were given credit for any measure of integrity. Altruism and a sense of duty and responsibility were apparently obsolete virtues." [5] It is foreseeable that Rochester, a young man nurtured by a Puritan-minded mother, acquired a noticeable hatred of facade and duplicity early in his lyrical career. Though Rochester averred a loathing of the court, it was the only place where in his genius found proper candour, and he continually returned thither, providing his health prevailed. The notion of Libertinism had ensnared its way through the court in the early seventeenth century, developing as years passed. By Rochester's generation, there were numerous reasonably marked varieties, including Hobbesian libertinism, which derives heftily on reinterpretation of opinions uncovered in Thomas Hobbes', Leviathan and accentuating the satiating of desires, predominantly sexual ones, and philosophical libertinism, established around the works of Epicurus and Lucretius and heavily endorsing self-control. Rochester's libertine outlooks are complicated to collocate as he lies somewhere between these two camps. In his poetry, he encourages the use of logic to limit desires just enough to keep them "more in vigor" [6] , rejuvenating desires to permit their fulfilment again and again, sooner than allowing them to be utterly satiated and thus ruined. It was in satire primarily that Rochester triumphed. For this sort, he was handsomely equipped by art and nature. He had examined the archaic paradigms with steadfastness and understanding. The rapacious vivacity of his intellect found its best articulation in castigating the depravities and foibles of humanity, which he personally understood so well. -

In satire, it is typical for the poet to assume a guise, usually that of an erudite, rational person dismayed with his fellow man, and advising an alternative manner of living while mocking those who do not meet his criterion. Rochester's narrators fluctuate from the archetypal satirical speaker in the principles they adopt. Abhorrence for pretence and duplicity, and endorsing of good sense are usual, but Rochester's poetry expands the principle of integrity into the sexual sphere and asserts that good sense should be employed to enhance and perpetuate pleasure. The narrators of the poems examined here are so akin to Rochester himself in temperament that it is feasible to argue that he shares most, if not all, of their thoughts and outlooks. Like the poet, they are all judicious, droll personas. Like him, they frequently despair of the aptitude of their fellow beings; in an epistle to his friend Henry Saville, Rochester lamented,

"But most human Affairs (are) carried on at the same nonsensical rate, which makes me, (who am now grown Superstitious) think it a Fault to laugh at the Monkey we have here, when I compare his Condition with Mankind." [7] 

As in A Satire Against Reason and Mankind, the poet likens humans unflatteringly with animals. He no longer deems the monkey's conduct amusing, since humans are so preposterous themselves. The poem is a humorous but pungent admonition of human nature and all its narcissistic posturing to gumption and morality. The initial forty-five lines of the poem shape a universal musing on the deteriorating of reason, which deludes and misleads people. Some deem themselves to be exceedingly astute, but they are in reality the utmost of fools. Prudence is associated with an 'ignis fatuus' (will-o'-the-wisp) that lures people through the perilous terrain of their own psyche. Intellectual persons who insist to be "wits" [8] are selected for specific criticism, wit being disparaged as "vain frivolous pretence." [9] 

It was in Rochester's period that the established concept of humanity being at the core of a perfectly preordained universe, wherein God assumes a committed and omnipresent existence, was exchanged by an innovative image of the universe as an immeasurable, distant world, in which the function of mankind was negligible. In such a scholarly milieu, scepticism of humanity's worth and mistrust of, or disdain for, past notions of human's celestial nature as common in literature. A Satire Against Reason and Mankind is a persuasive and acutely bleak articulation of these uncertainties. The poet scoffs at humanity for believing that the skill of reason elevates them to a position close to the divine. The poet writes, "This supernatural gift, that makes a mite,/ Think he is the image of the Infinite:/ Comparing his short life, void of all rest,/ To the Eternal, and the ever blest." [10] He scorns human intellectual affectations when he writes, "This busy, puzzling, stirrer up of doubt,/ That frames deep mysteries, then finds 'em out." [11] 

Rochester does not reject humankind and its pomposity to reason as wholly insignificant, however, he articulates a resolute conviction in human capacity to know the immediate surroundings, by means of the senses. In this respect, he is a veritable product of the Enlightenment, in that he has faith in experiential proof and discernible knowledge above all metaphysical suppositions. He states, "Our sphere of action, is life's happiness,/ And he who thinks beyond, thinks like an ass." [12] Rochester protests against human impudence in supposing that one can comprehend cosmic mysteries and the nature of the cosmos purely because, as a human, one is capable of thought. The poet's satire seems to stem as much from sorrow at human failings as from disdain for human imprudence. The final stanza is somewhat of an act of contrition in which Rochester says that encountering a genuinely honourable, diffident, and virtuous man would promptly sway him to alter his outlook on humanity. One perceives that he sincerely desires to encounter such a worthy individual and would be pleased to "adore those shrines of virtue" [13] if he could. Nevertheless, even such a epitome would not utterly sway him of humanity's redeemability. If such an individual were to exist, it would only verify that there is more divergence amid individual people than there is between man and animals. The entire poem, notwithstanding its cutting condemnation of human corruption and limitations, is suffused with melancholy at human defects and incapacity to discern anything outside of one's direct sensory observations. At the conclusion of one's life, Rochester declares, "Old age, and experience, hand in hand,/ Lead him to death, and make him understand,/ After a search so painful, and so long,/ That all his life he has been in the wrong." [14] It is this earnest nuance of anguish and sorrow at the human condition that alleviates the rancorous denunciation of humanity and makes the poem both a timeless testimony of the ethos of Rochester's time and a enduring reflection on the nature of humanity that's intention is to "reform the world" rather than to harm.

Rochester's objective is not exclusively to amuse, however. Many of his metaphors are criminally swaying as they unveil the more sinister facets of human nature. He equates people to beasts who are equipped by nature with teeth and claws, and ruminates that "Man, with smiles, embraces, friendships, praise,/ Inhumanely, his fellow's life betrays." [15] He selects as his examples of humanity the kind who are intended to be the most honourable and least egotistical of men. The courtier, he claims, should "his needful flattery direct,/ Not to oppress, and ruin, but to protect." [16] Instead, the noble is pompous and dishonest, accepts bribes, and elevates his family's welfare over the nation. Clergymen undergo equal sardonic treatment. Rochester postulates, "Is there a churchman who on God relies?/ Whose life, his faith, and doctrine justifies?" [17] Rochester's response is an emphatic no. The clergyman, he states, "lofty pulput proudly see,/Half a large parish their own progeny;/ Nor doting bishop who would be adored/ For domineering at the council board" [18] The clergymen is, in addition, pompous, immoral and avaricious. By choosing as his specific focus, individuals who should be paradigms of integrity in society, Rochester expands his satire from the individual to humanity to instruct and educate his reader.

Jonathon Swift's Gulliver's Travels, is arguably his most excellent satiric endeavour to "shame men out of their vices" [19] by persistently differentiating between how humanity conducts itself and how one reflects on or validates one's conduct in an array of circumstances. In this respect, Swift's true purpose was to provide his reader with a lesson. Conceit, particularly, is what permits man to "deceive himself into the belief that he is rational and virtuous when, in reality, he has not developed his reason, and his virtue is merely appearance," [20] This parody works on numerous levels, in which the construction and choice of allegory serve Swift's intent of a symposium of some of his most pertinent criticisms on politics, faith, and other factors of civilisation, and his evaluation on the quintessence and imperfections of human nature. Swift's intent was to rouse his readers to regard themselves as he perceived humanity, as beings that were not realising their propensity to be truly great but were simply parading the accoutrements of greatness.

The form and structure of the opus reinforced Swift's objective, as did the individual metaphors in each of the four journeys. To begin with, Swift goes to great effort to portray Gulliver's Travels in the authentic, customary form of the prevalent travelogues of the era. Swift forms a credible context by integrating nautical terminology, evocative detail that is communicated in a factual, ship's-log style, and repeated claims by Gulliver, in his narrative, "to relate plain matter of fact in the simplest manner and style; because my principal design was to inform, and not to amuse thee." [21] This framework offers a sensation of verity and authority that differs acutely with the fanciful nature of the sagas, and institutes the first sardonic stratum of the tale. "In Gulliver's Travels there is a constant shuttling back and forth between real and unreal, normal and absurd...until our standards of credulity are so relaxed that we are ready to buy a pig in a poke." [22] The four books of the novel are also presented in an analogous style so that first and second voyages concentrate on disparagement of countless features of English society at the time, while the third and fourth voyages are more engrossed with human nature itself. Nevertheless, all of these fundamentals coincide, and with each voyage, Gulliver, and thus the reader, is treated not only to contradictory but ever intensifying observations of human nature that culminate in Gulliver's epiphany when he associates himself with the repugnant Yahoos. The whole composition also works like a helix leading to a hub of self-realisation. Swift's satire shifts from "foreign to domestic scenes, from institutions to individuals, from mankind to man, from others to ourselves," [23] 

The use of metaphor in each voyage serves more specifically the various statements of Swift's satiric vision. "The effect of reducing the scale of life in Lilliput is to strip human affairs of their self-imposed grandeur. Rank, politics, international war, loses all of their significance. This particular idea is continued in the second voyage, not in the picture of the Brobdingnagians, but in Gulliver himself, who is now a Lilliputian," [24] Where the Lilliputians underscore the parsimoniousness of human pride and posturing, the comparative magnitude of the Brobdingnagians, who do demonstrate some positive merits also illuminates the vulgarity of the human form and routine, thus ridiculing arrogance in the human form and facade. In the voyage to Laputa, the actual device of a floating island that drifts along above the rest of the world symbolically embodies Swift's argument that dissipation in tentative reasoning can also be destructive by excluding one from the viable realities in life which, ultimately, does not aid wisdom or society. In relation to the actions of the Grand Academy of Lagado, Swift lampoons the perils and profligacy of arrogance in human reason unacquainted by common sense. The ultimate choice of the Houyhnhnms as the expression of seamless wisdom unhampered by absurdity or unwarranted passion serves a double role for Swift's satire. The farce of a domestic creature demonstrating more "humanity" than humans illuminates the flaws of human nature in the shape of the Yahoo, who appear and behave like humans stripped of superior intelligence. Gulliver and the reader are compelled to appraise such conduct from a viewpoint beyond man that makes it both scandalous and poignant. The self-importance in human nature as superior when contrasted with a brutish nature is satirised harshly. The Houyhnhnms, however, are not an idyllic representation of human nature either. Swift utilises them to demonstrate how wisdom unaware of love, empathy, and benevolence is also a deficient approach in dealing with the innumerable facets of the human condition.

Within this structure, very little of human social conduct, affectations, or social establishments flee the quashing punctures of Swift's criticisms. A great deal of the first voyage ridicules court intrigue and the capricious inconsistency of court favour. The status and approval of the Lilliputian ministers depending on how high they can leap over a rope accurately demonstrates this metaphorical point. Gulliver himself falls out of favour as he chooses not to cajole the King's yearning for power. Swift also illuminates the airs of politics by enlightening the reader of certain creditable and unique principles and practices of Lilliputian society such as rewarding those who comply with the law, regarding a breach of trust as the utmost misdemeanour, and chastising phony indicters and ingratitude, but demonstrates that, like humans, even the Lilliputians do not achieve their own criterion when they exhibit lack of gratitude for Gulliver's support and accuse him of high treason. [25] 

Rochester's shares Swifts disgust for artifice demonstrated by the Lilliputian ministers as is revealed in his poem Tunbridge Wells where he develops his stance to incorporate pretence in all fields of life. The narrator, moves about the chic watering place of Tunbridge Wells, where he encounters a chain of buffoons, each of whom torment him as much as, if not more than, the preceding. The first man the poet encounters is "a mere Sir Nicholas Cully; / A bawling fop, a natural Nokes, and yet / He dares to censure as if he had wit" [26] This anonymous "fop", is so nauseating to the poet's receptivity that he causes him "purge and spew" [27] ; draining his stomach of the wine he had consumed to make the therapeutic waters from the wells less disagreeable. Instead of being amusing, the fop is an representation of loathing as he attempts (and fails) to seem astutue, "as if he had wit." [28] As if this were not awful enough, he is escorted by a succession of indistinguishable "fops", "All of his shape, all of the selfsame stuff" [29] . Even Nature has indicated their idiocy: "Nature has done the business of lampoon, / And in their looks their characters has shown" [30] She has detached them from the remainder of humankind, as if Nature herself had wit.

The following "fop" the poet encounters is "As great a fop, though of another kind" [31] This one is converses less, but everything he says is cloned from the others and utilised arbitrarily. He "speaks all proverbs, sentences, and adage" [32] (l. 36), more readily than using his own mind. His duplicity is far more dreadful than the first fools, as it is deliberately affected. Not only does everything he utters are appropriated from others, he uses identical decorum and ostentatious language in every situation. He "Can with as much solemnity buy eggs / As a cabal can talk of their intrigues" [33] . He does not, however, harness his simulated acumen aptly, which causes him to become an even more idiotic sight. Interestingly, he is likened to the "cabal", a group of conspirators who plotted against Charles II. Discussing treason is a markedly more dangerous concern than purchasing eggs, and the distinction works to make the "fop" seem even more preposterous. Like Swift, society itself is the focus of Rochester's contempt. Rather than establishing the young man for the "jackanapes" [34] he is, people address him as "the young gentleman." [35] His fraudulence, which is abhorrent, is consented by society as candour. Given the numerous members of society conveyed in the poem, however, this is unsurprising, as they are all similarly false. Here Rochester is illuminating that humanity is fatuous and contrived, unlike beasts who behave only in ways true to themselves, like The Houyhnhnms in Gulliver's Travels. While animals want for logic, they lack duplicity and are therefore far more fortunate than the poet and, indeed, all of humanity. The paradigm offered here is the narrator's horse, which does "only things fit for his nature," [36] rather than feigning intelligence, or being duped by another's facade.

This concept is further explored in Gulliver's Travels as we see human nature itself being satirised, particularly human pride as it manifests in "pettiness, grossness, rational absurdity, and animality," [37] Gulliver's persona, as a satirical mechanism, facilitates Swift's intentions by being both a implement for some of Swift's philosophies and denigrations and as an demonstration of them. Thus, criticisms on human nature are made through Gulliver's observations as well as through Gulliver's own conversion from a "naive individual...into a wise and skeptical misanthrope." [38] 

Gulliver's Travels "is in a sense, a tragic work...in that it is the picture of man's collapse before his corrupt nature, and of his defiance in face of the collapse" [39] In spite of that, Swift believed that subduing human conceit, facilitating a more sincere self-assessment, was imperative in tackling the anguish and prejudice so ubiquitous in society. Brandishing the blade of satire, Swift severs through self-deception, into one's pride, the cause of our ethical refutation and apathy. In Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift maintains perplexing society so that it might rouse to the fact that humanity needs rescuing, but it must save itself. Several similar themes course through Rochester's satirical poetry, knowledge and morals which crop up frequently. The most palpable is his stress on the value of sincerity and the repugnance of artifice. From the repulsive "fops" of Tunbridge Wells to the decent men held as archetypes in A Satire Against Reason and Mankind, the personas offered are critiqued in accordance with the candour of their conduct. Those who are feigned are callously admonished, those who are not, are believed to be (while unlikely to exist) the finest of men. Reason is also an crucial premise in Rochester as well as Swift's works. A Satire upon Reason and Mankind maintains poignantly that natural reason, a coherent mode of thinking, is correct and valuable, whereas the 'reason' of society is imprudent and even detrimental to one's gratification of life. In this respect one can see both Rochester and Swift's satires have "greater Pow'r/ To reform the World, than sour."

Writing Services

Essay Writing
Service

Find out how the very best essay writing service can help you accomplish more and achieve higher marks today.

Assignment Writing Service

From complicated assignments to tricky tasks, our experts can tackle virtually any question thrown at them.

Dissertation Writing Service

A dissertation (also known as a thesis or research project) is probably the most important piece of work for any student! From full dissertations to individual chapters, we’re on hand to support you.

Coursework Writing Service

Our expert qualified writers can help you get your coursework right first time, every time.

Dissertation Proposal Service

The first step to completing a dissertation is to create a proposal that talks about what you wish to do. Our experts can design suitable methodologies - perfect to help you get started with a dissertation.

Report Writing
Service

Reports for any audience. Perfectly structured, professionally written, and tailored to suit your exact requirements.

Essay Skeleton Answer Service

If you’re just looking for some help to get started on an essay, our outline service provides you with a perfect essay plan.

Marking & Proofreading Service

Not sure if your work is hitting the mark? Struggling to get feedback from your lecturer? Our premium marking service was created just for you - get the feedback you deserve now.

Exam Revision
Service

Exams can be one of the most stressful experiences you’ll ever have! Revision is key, and we’re here to help. With custom created revision notes and exam answers, you’ll never feel underprepared again.