Gulliver's Travels

On the Style of Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift, an author whose life straddled the turn of the 17th century, is widely considered to be the greatest satirist in British literary history. Although he is well-versed in poetry and has written a prolific amount of private correspondences, Swift is best known for his prose fictions, such as The Battle of the Books, Tale of a Tub, and Gulliver's Travels, and his pamphlets, namely A Modest Proposal. Swift's works fall under the genre of satire, in which irony and sarcasm are used to deride or expose stupidity and folly, typically in society, politics, and human nature.

The diction of Swift's style can be best described as simple and prosaic. Only in rare circumstances does he deviate from a pattern of typical syntax and word choices and his normal writings exhibit no peculiarities in this respect. According to Scott-Kilvert (1980), Swift "tended to associate language with history, with politics, with religion... for his pamphlets, he needed a middle style, which would, in effect, avoid the extremes of decadent courtier or disloyal dissenter, of licentiousness and fanaticism. (29)" Sir Walter Scott, quoted by Read (1998), concurs about Swift: "His style, which generally consists of the most...

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