Swift has been charged with misanthropy. Uphold or refute the charge with concrete evidence from his works, especially, “Gulliver’s Travels”.
Misanthropy is the question against existence of humanity. The words like; “people [were] forever without understanding” are considerable but not reliable. To do something good for individual’s own benefit is fine but to do something for humanity is the best thing. Man has emotions and desires but when he goes at the peak in order to fulfill his worldly desires, he somehow becomes an animal, which is harmful not only for his own sake but also for other humans, due to which, misanthropy reborn. Nevertheless, misanthropy is hatred against the humanity and its existence.
The charge against Jonathan Swift to the extent of misanthropy is totally unjustified. In fact, it is a misconception. Swift does not hate humanity but loves it. He tries to reform humans by revealing their follies and stupidities. He hates sin but loves sinners. He, by using technique of satire, wants to improve man’s life. “Gulliver’s Travels” is remarkable example of it, through which, he reveals that humans can become irrational if they do not overpower their desires. The writer in shape of a simple journey has described man’s social as well as moral corruption. The hidden satire is though cynical yet leaves impact on the society so that it can be reformed. Keeping in view the attitude of swift towards humanity, it can be said that he is a philanthropist rather misanthropist.
Jonathan Swift wanted to see the world a better place for humans. He did not want to remove humans from the world but wanted change in their behaviour. He is a philanthropist but not a donor, who gives charity; charity is the name of releasing a social pain but philanthropy has a wider sense. 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 how to fish, then it is philanthropy. Swift’s work is forever remembered because of his revolutionized techniques as he has given everyone a chance of improvement. Swift wanted to teach the world; how to survive without being irrational.
The 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, regarding human existence, are considered as the philosophy of Jonathan Swift, due to which the critics have charged Jonathan Swift with misanthropy. In the first voyage, in shape of tiny creature, Jonathan Swift attacks on the hypocrisy, ingratitude, and cruelty but one way or the other, although these creatures are similar to humans yet we distance ourselves from these creatures since they are not humans like us. In the second voyage, Gulliver becomes a comic satire for the people of Brobdingnagians. They were giants and physical appearance of Gulliver become mockery for them. Gulliver’s and his country’s pride comes to an end in this voyage. There is satire on human body. Giants have pride and they do not consider Gulliver and the men of his country equal to them in any sense. There is also satire on pride and ugliness of human body in this voyage. All the voyages in “Gulliver’s Travels” are based on satire and one can easily judge them but on the last voyage, when Gulliver meets Yahoos, he develops hatred against them. He was fed up by the follies of humans and then misconceives Yahoos as humans. He prefers Houyhnhnms on Yahoos as Yahoos are brutal and they can do anything to complete their desires, whereas Houyhnhnms, on the other hand, are good. Jonathan’s satire on the last voyage is offensive. Gulliver has affection for Houyhnhnms but abhorrence for the Yahoos. He cannot deny that he belongs to the same species as the Yahoos yet the description he gives us about them is regrettable.
“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.”
It is because of this voyage that Swift was charged with misanthropy. The writer has no intention to offend anyone but he exaggerates human nature in negative form to such an extent that it creates doubt in the minds of readers and ultimately readers starting considering the writer a misanthropist. It is worth to mention here that some of the critics think that Gulliver’s opinions are not the opinions of Jonathan Swift; therefore, he cannot be charged with misanthropy. It is not true, Gulliver is spokesperson for Swift and he has responsibility of every comment, which comes from the mouth of Gulliver. However, if so, even then, it Swift cannot be proved a misanthropist.
For these reasons, although the writer has given an odd description of human nature and left nothing to discuss with regard to human stupidities and his repulsive desires yet there is no denying the fact that he is a reformer. There are always shortcomings in every society and the purpose of the writer is to pinpoint the vices, in order to reform. Every misanthropist gave up the hope of better world but it is not the case with Jonathan Swift; he had a hope for better world. He is not disappointed by the humankind but wants its reformation. By continuously satirizing more on humanity rather than politics, in every voyage, Swift wants more change in human nature and less in system.
Swift wants to shock us with the pride and selfish nature of humankind. If one wants to reform himself, first, he must know what his shortcomings are. Swift, in order to give awareness to the people took steps. He wrote “Gulliver Travels”, which totally justified the artistic qualities of the writer. Although the satire in “Gulliver Travels” is cynical, yet it is undeniable that he is not against existence of humanity. He is lover of mankind and desires change. 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 gives a list of idiocy of mankind so that it can be reformed. In a true sense, the man is neither as irrational as Yahoos nor passionless like Houyhnhnms but somewhere in between. In “Gulliver Travels” or other writings of Jonathan Swift, the satire may be skeptical but it cannot make him a misanthropist; rather it leaves impact on the readers and gives an opportunity for improvement. Hence, keeping in view the strong evidence, the charge, against Jonathan Swift, is refuted.