Gulliver's Travels

Saying "the Thing which was not": Consciously Constructed Confusion in Gulliver's Travels

"But the chief end I propose to my self in all my labors is to vex the world"

Jonathan Swift

In most ironic works there are two voices. Ellen Winner and Howard Gardner explain that in irony, "what the speaker says is intentionally at odds with the way the speaker knows the world to be" (428). The use of the word speaker' twice in this sentence reveals a great deal about irony. One of the speakers that Winner and Gardner refer to is the actual voice speaking to the audience in the work. The other voice is usually the authors', and lurks behind the immediate text or voice, with a view counter to that of the first voice.

In Jonathan Swift's short ironic work, "A Modest Proposal" there are two such voices at work. One voice is the naïve voice set in the text, a voice that recommends the slaughtering of children for social good. The other, contrasting, voice is Swift's own mature voice which sits behind the text and uses the naïve speaker to demonstrate the absurdity of the naïve speaker's own point.

In Swift's work, Gulliver's Travels, he makes it clear that he will use multiple voices before the work even begins. Swift inserted a letter supposedly written by Lemuel Gulliver,...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 943 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 7600 literature essays, 2153 sample college application essays, 318 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in