Lecture 22: The Novel: Defoe & Swift
Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe”
Defoe started his life as a journalists.
He published “Robinson Crusoe” in 1719.
“Robinson Crusoe” has remained one of the most successful works in the world.
Robinson Crusoe makes a ‘kingdom’ on the island after a ship is wrecked.
He remains on the island for over 28 years, where he builds a society.
The society consisted of his ’man, Friday’ and Polly, a parrot.
The story can be read as a fable/allegory of survival in praise of human/white European spirit.
It reveals, too, how the new society brings its values, religion, and self-fish behaviour to any place it colonises.
As Crusoe grows rich, he returns back and becomes a model of the new capitalist.
Property and white man’s power are more important than such things as love or marriage. (Robinson’s marriage occupies only one page!)
The happen ending of “Robinson Crusoe” suggests the continuation of the way of life Crusoe has brought to the Island, on the model of white European society.
Post-colonial critics such as Edward Said consider this novel an allegory of Imperialism.
Friday is presented as the uncivilised, inferior other who needs to be saved.
Even his language ”mans” and ”me saw” is inferior to that of the parrot, Polly, who even uses the past perfect tense!
First Person Narrator “I”
Defoe’s technique in most of his novels is a first-person narrator.
It is an ”I” that tells the story as if it had happened.
As a matter of fact, the novel was inspired by the story of Alexander Selkirk who spent many years on a desert island.
Defoe’s “Moll Flanders”
“Moll Flanders” tells the story of a woman who has been a prostitute and a thief.
When she tells the story, she has reformed and changed her life.
The novel therefore makes a moral point about ways of living:
The reader shares Moll’s terrible experience in order to lean what life should be.
This reflects the age’s concern with experience and how to live.
Most novelists in the 18th century described the bad side of life, but with a happy ending to show it was all worth while.
“Moll Flanders” is also a first person narrator.
The fact that the main character was a woman shows how the writers were trying to please the readership.
Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”
Swift uses satire and humour in “The Battle of the Book”
“Gulliver’s Travels” is Swift’s strongest political and social satire.
“Gulliver’s Travels” is in 4 parts
Book One: Gulliver travels to Lilliput, where he meets with very small inhabitants.
Book Two: he travels to Brobgidnag where the people are enormous/giants.
Here he satirizes religion and politics as the king after hearing Gulliver Describe the society in England says:
“Your natives are the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.”
In Book Three, science is ridiculed ad mocked.
In Book Four, Gulliver meets the cultured horses, the Houyhnhnms, and compares their ways with the nasty monkey-like Yahoos, who represent humanity.
Swifts satire is strong because in another world, ordinary human actions are criticised when performed by extraordinary characters.
As soon as “Gulliver’s Travels” was published in 1726, it was considered a kind of children’s story, a fable rather than a strong social and political criticism. Why?
Swift’s “A modest Proposal”
Swift’s view of life was seen as pessimistic (Why?) and against the mood of the times.
“Gulliver’s Travels” was not taken seriously.
“A modest Proposal” (1729) is a satirical article by swift
“A modest Proposal” suggested a way to solve the Irish problem