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The Assessment of Society in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels

“In its most serious function, satire is a mediator between two perceptions-the unillusioned perception of man as he actually is, and the ideal perception, or vision, of man as he ought ot be,” (Bullitt, 3). Likewise, “misanthropy” can be understood as being the product of one of two world views: 1) The Pure Cynic or Misanthropist has no faith in human nature and has given up on any notion of ideals. This type lies and manipulates as a matter of course and these are the types that tend to run the world. 2) The “Burned” or Disillusioned Idealist’s misanthropy arises out of disappointment in humankind. In many ways, the second type exhibits more bile as he is constantly frustrated by what men do as opposed to what they ought to do. Jonathon Swift is the second type of misanthropist and Gulliver’s Travels is arguably his greatest satiric attempt to “shame men out of their vices” (Ibid., 14) by constantly distinguishing between how man behaves and how he thinks about or justifies his behavior in a variety of situations. Pride, in particular, is what enables man to “deceive himself into the belief that he is rational and virtuous when, in reality, he has not developed his reason, and his virtue is merely appearance,” (Ibid., 66). This satire works on so many levels that a paper such as this allows me to deal with only three elements, and in a necessarily superficial way: the ways in which the structure and choice of metaphor serve Swift’s purpose, a discussion of some of his most salient attacks on politics, religion, and other elements of society, and his critique on the essence and flaws of human nature. Swift’s purpose was to stir his readers to view themselves as he viewed humankind, as creatures who were not fulfilling their potential to be truly great but were simply flaunting the trappings of greatness. Gulliver’s Travels succeeds in this goal brilliantly.

The form and structure of the whole work enhanced Swift’s purpose, as did the specific metaphors in each of the four voyages. Firstly, Swift went to great pains to present Gulliver’s Travels in the genuine, standard form of the popular travelogues of the time. Gulliver, the reader is told, was a seaman, first in the capacity of a ship’s surgeon, then as the captain of several ships. Swift creates a realistic framework by incorporating nautical jargon, descriptive detail that is related in a “factual, ship’s-log” style, and repeated claims by Gulliver, in his narrative, “to relate plain matter(s) of fact in the simplest manner and style.

Comparing Gilliam’s Brazil and Radford’s Adaptation of 1984

Comparing Gilliam’s Brazil and. Radford’s Adaptation of 1984

While researching for a book on the making of and feud over the American release of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, author Jack Mathews read virtually every review of the film printed in the United States and found that very few failed to refer to the film as “futuristic” or “Orwellian.” “The comparisons are understandable, if inaccurate,” says Mathews, “There isn’t a futuristic element in Brazil. The story is Orwellian, in the sense that it is set in a totalitarian state where individuality is smothered by enforced conformity. But where George Orwell…was envisioning a future ruled by fascism and technology, Gilliam was satirizing the bureaucratic, largely dysfunctional industrial world that had been driving him crazy all his life”(Mathews). Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, made in 1985, at first glance, seems much like Michael Radford’s film version of George Orwell’s 1984, made in 1984, in its setting and story. However, upon further examination of the two films, there are differences in style and tone that distance them from each other. 1984 is dark and gloomy from beginning to end while Brazil, though still dark, has a much lighter atmosphere. The love stories presented in both films are unmistakably similar and make the plots seem closer to each other, but this is the only strong link they share, for differences in tone distance the films from each other. Because of its dark humor, Brazil is a satire of the very society in which the story takes place, while 1984, though also a satire, lacks any humor whatsoever and is more of a horror story of a society that might await mankind.

In the opening scene, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil seems to be quite jovial. A shot in which the camera hovers through the sky, passing in and out of clouds, starts the film off while the song “Brazil,” after which the movie was named, fills the soundtrack. Titles begin to appear over the soaring shot. The titles read, “Somewhere in the 20th Century,” informing the audience of the time period, but confusing them as well. The world in which the movie’s main character dwells is a dreary, dystopian, retro-futuristic metropolis, a far cry from anything that has been seen this century. In this world, nobody is protected from the government; individuals are executed as a result of administrative errors. The compensation for these wrongful deaths is a simple refund check.

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