Is Jonathan Swift A Misanthropist or Philanthropist? | Gulliver’s Travels.
Misanthropy is the name of holding hateful and distrustful opinions against existence of humanity. Jonathan Swift has been charged as a misanthropist but many critics have defended him while saying that he is a philanthropist. However, no one denies he has presented humans in the worst from possible in “Gulliver’s Travels”. Is it mere satire? or Swift actually hates humanity. These questions need answers. Man has emotions and desires but when he crosses boundaries to fulfill worldly desires, he somehow becomes an animal. Swift in “Gulliver’s Travels” has showed that it is harmful not only for him but also for other humans. .
Charge against Jonathan Swift:
“Gulliver’s Travels” when published, it offended many people. Majority of people called Jonathan Swift a pure misanthropist, whereas remaining defended it while saying that he was a philanthropist. Humans are worst living beings in his eyes. He calls animals better than them. There is no rationality in them says swift. In direct words he said he hated ” Yahoos”. Yahoos were humans like specie, therefore, people considered him a misanthropist.
Jonathan Swift is neither a misanthropist nor a philanthropist but a satirist:
It is unjustified to say that Jonathan Swift is a misanthropist rather he is a philanthropist. He does not hate humanity but loves it. He tries to reform humans by revealing their follies and stupidities. He wants to improve human life through satire. He hates sin but loves sinners. “Gulliver’s Travels” is remarkable example of it. He reveals to us that we as humans can become irrational if we do not overpower our desires. In shape of a simple journey he has described man’s social as well as moral corruption. His satire is cynical but forces us to think on our follies. About satire, he writes:
Satire is a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.Jonathan Swift
Chief purpose of writing “Gulliver’s Travels” is to satirize human nature. It is about man’s arrogance. Jonathan Swift has used Gulliver as a mouthpiece for his observations and thinking. Gulliver’s exaggerated views with respect to question of human existence are clearly for reformation purposes. In first voyage, he attacks on the hypocrisy, ingratitude, and cruelty of humans. In second voyage, Gulliver becomes a comic satire for people of Brobdingnagians. Gulliver’s physical appearance becomes mockery in front of those giants. In this voyage we find satire on pride and human ugliness. Gulliver has pride on his own physical appearance before seeing them but when he sees them his pride ends.
Description of all voyages in “Gulliver’s Travels” depicts satire. One can easily find it. However, when Gulliver meets Yahoos, he hates them. He is so fed up by human follies that he misconceives Yahoos as humans. He prefers Houyhnhnms on Yahoos as Yahoos are brutal and they can take any step to fulfill their desires. Houyhnhnms, on the other hand, are rational. Swift’s satire on the last voyage is offensive. Gulliver has affection for Houyhnhnms but abhorrence for the Yahoos. He knows that there is a similarity between him and Yahoos yet he hates them.
“Yet I confess I never say any sensitive being so detestable on all accounts; and the more I came near them, the more hateful they grew.”Gulliver Travels – Jonathan Swift
Perhaps, it is this voyage due to which Swift has been charged with misanthropy but he has no intention to offend anyone. He just exaggerates negativity in human nature. It should be remembered that exaggeration is a component of satire. Besides, some of the critics think that Gulliver’s opinions are not the opinions of Jonathan Swift, therefore, he cannot be called a misanthropist instead he is a philanthropist. Nonetheless Gulliver is spokesperson for Swift and Swift has to answer for every word which comes from the mouth of Gulliver.
There are always shortcomings in every society and the purpose of a writer is to pinpoint them. Every misanthropist gives up the hope of better world but Jonathan Swift still has a hope. He is not disappointed by the humankind yet. Continuously satirizing humanity more than politics in every voyage, Swift wants more change in human nature and less in system.
He does not questions existence of humanity; instead he wants change. His vision sees the invisible. Once he said:
Vision is the art of seeing invisible.Jonathan Swift
He wants to make this world a better place to live but he is not a donor who gives charity. He is a pure writer. He is performing his duty by showing people their stupidities. It differentiates a philanthropist to a donor. The difference between philanthropy and charity can be understood by the example; a fish is given to a person, it is charity but if he is taught fishing, then it is philanthropy. Swift’s work will be remembered forever. He has told people that still there is a chance of improvement. He has taught the world how to survive without being irrational.
Jonathan Swift is not Misanthropist but Philanthropist:
Swift wants to shock us with pride and selfish nature of humankind. If one wants to reform himself, first, he must know what his shortcomings are. Hence, he has given awareness to the people. “Gulliver Travels” totally justifies his artistic qualities. Although his satire in “Gulliver Travels” is cynical yet he does not hate humans.
He is of the considered view that the world can be a better place than the present and to do this everyone should have to give up on unlawful ambitions. In every voyage, he shows humans’s idiocy so that it can be reformed. In a true sense, man is neither as irrational as Yahoos nor passionless like Houyhnhnms but somewhere in between. In “Gulliver Travels” or other writings of Jonathan Swift, satire may be skeptical but it cannot make him a misanthropist rather it makes him a philanthropist. In view of the above, charge against Jonathan Swift is refuted and he should be called philanthropist instead misanthropist.