During the eighteenth century in England, many people believed that there was a major need for social and political reform. Satirists would often criticize English life through their literature. Two of the most important satirists of this period were Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope. Jonathan Swift was an irish writer who lived in England, and is best known for his piece, Gulliver’s Travels. Alexander Pope was a catholic and it can be argued that his most well known piece is the poem The Rape of the Lock. Although Swift and Pope had opposed writing styles, both of them demonstrated their belief in social and political reform during the Restoration era in England.
Gulliver’s Travels is a satire in which each part exhibits a different view in which how Swift could change for the better. In part one, Swift used the big/little ender dispute to show the differences and fighting between England and France at this time. He pokes fun at English Parliament and their political practices. One example of how he pokes fun at them is with the Articles of Impeachment against Quinbus Flestrin. Swift mocks how people with no understanding of politics can make laws that have such large consequences. Part 2, in Brobdingnag, Gulliver mocks the king saying that his people are dumb, and can’t even understand simple concepts such as science and politics. This being said, the giant people of Brobdingnag represent the ideal society.
Gulliver’s ignorance towards the Brobdingnags can be compared to the ignorance that the English show towards the rest of the world. Swift thought that England should not put themselves on a pedestal and realize that there are good things that come from other cultures and societies. Part 3 takes a swing at English imperialism. The land of Laputa forces the countries below to make payments and fund Laputa’s needs for scientific and technological advancement. Swift felt this was a really important topic to cover because England colonized much of Ireland, Swift’s homeland. In part 4, Swift almost rationalizes his stance against England by saying that all of mankind has lost touch with their moral values. In conclusion, Swift uses a lot of symbolism to mock Parliament, whether it be about politics, war, or English imperialism, and he stresses his belief in a need for major reform in England.
The Rape of the Lock written by Alexander Pope is another important satire from the Restoration era. Pope uses symbolism to show that the feud between protestants and catholics during this time period is ridiculous. He does this by taking a simple argument over a lock of hair and blows it way out of proportion, causing two families to have a massive feud. Pope felt that being a catholic did not give the English government the ability to deny him basic rights. Through the poem, Pope sneaks in hints of religious references. He mentions Belinda wearing sparkling Christian emblem which is obviously referring to a cross. The fact that he refers to the cross as “sparkling” could show that he favors catholicism. Right after this he states how Belinda will maybe forget her prayers and lose her necklace. This is symbolizing the fact that in order for Belinda to be excepted in society, she must stop practicing her religion.
The necklace is referring to either a necklace with a cross, or maybe even a rosary. Now the question is why would a girl giving up on catholicism be a problem? Catholics in this period were not treated equally and were often not wealthy. Protestants on the other hand were often very wealthy, and perhaps English Parliament would use wealthy Protestants as a kind of “bait” for catholic girls to give up their faith so that they could marry into money. Pope obviously saw that this was morally wrong because he thought that government should not get involved with people’s religious beliefs. It is contradicting to deny someone their religion because religion is supposed to teach morals, and Pope wanted to exploit this. Unlike Swift, Pope chose to take a larger stance against the upper class and religious problems in England. This was much more risky than Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels catholicism was viewed as a major problem by wealthy people and high officials in English Parliament.
When comparing Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock, there are many similarities, as well as differences between the two pieces of literature. Swift decided to look the flaws of England as a whole, not just the government, but the morality of the citizens in the lower classes also. He believed that there was more than just one thing wrong with England and that if there was to be reform, then it would take an equal amount of effort from everybody. Pope chose to mock mostly the upper class and government officials. Another difference between the two is that Swift used a fictional travel journal to exploit his ideas, while Pope used a mock epic poem. Although they had different writing styles, Swift and Pope would definitely agree that there was need for major reform in Restoration era England politics, social matters, and religious disputes. Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope were both monumental authors during this time period, and their works are still important to us today.