GULLIVER AND DR. SWIFT: THE ISSUE OF THE SATIRIST'S IDENTITY
KOCH, ROBERT ALLEN
Doctor of Philosophy thesis
Theories of identity help illuminate satire. In identity formation, an individual introjects cultural values towards which he feels ambivalent. Like other tragic satirists, Juvenal, unable to accept his ambivalence, projects his selfishness onto his enemies. Condemning society, he precludes his social accommodation. Like other comic satirists, Horace accepts his ambivalence and turns it to comedy. By charming his audience, he ensures a place for himself in society. Swift, like Horace, tries to compromise his conflicts, but their severity gives his satire Juvenalian intensity. Unlike Juvenal, Swift sees the absurdity of the continuing battle. In the first section of the verses on his death, Swift laughs at pursuing reputation when one cannot control others' opinions. Nevertheless, he declares pride a universal human feature. In the panegyric section, Swift rebels against the futility of pride by taking credit for supporting the public interest. Despite the arranged compromises, conflict is everywhere apparent in the poem. Pride is a useful concept for defining Gulliver's identity confusion. In Book I Gulliver obtains high position, but, not realizing it depends upon his supporting the ministers, he falls from power. In depicting Gulliver, Swift attempts to justify his public activities and to renounce his tormenting pride. Swift represents dilemmas of impotence in Book II. Although some Brobdingnagians protect Gulliver, others exploit him, and he suffers many accidents. Compensating for his humiliation, Gulliver claims heroic identity. Rejecting this claim, Swift recommends, through the king of Brobdingnag, support for the public interest. In Book III Swift mocks using intellect to deny man's subjection to circumstance. A person should accept his limited control over events. Book IV presents a model for the proper use of reason in the Houyhnhnms, who live in social harmony. Through the disruptive, passionate, and dirty Yahoos, Swift condemns the evil nature of man. However, man is neither Houyhnhnm nor Yahoo, but both. Swift ridicules Gulliver's incomprehension of this fact but does not reconcile the conflicting forces. Man ought to be good but inherently is partly evil. Thus, Swift expresses his need both to conform to cultural values and to rebel against them.