In a literary sense satire by definition uses irony, ridicule and humor to show weakness or bad qualities of a person, government, and/or society. Although satire often comes across as being funny and sarcastic there is almost always an underlying issue or message it is trying to define or portray to the readers or viewers.

One of the greatest satirists in English literature is Jonathan Swift. Today, several of his works still spark controversy. "Swift, is the writer who shocks, satirizes and teaches" (Hunting).


About Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift was born November 30, 1667 in Dublin, Ireland, to Jonathan Swift and Abigail Erick. His father died before he was born leaving his mother to raise him alone. When he was two years old he was taken from his mother and raised by a nurse in England. His entire life he traveled back and forth between Ireland and England. He spent eight years at Kilkenney School where he was exposed to the workings of Irish politics. It was his contacts at Kilkenney that thirty years later helped him to be appointed to the St Patrick’s Cathedral. His appointment to the church inspired his first writing known as “The Tale of the Tub”. Two of the most influential people in his life were Sir William Temple and girl he called Stella (Crook 26-29). He served as Sir William Temple’s personal assistant for over ten years. His influence on Swift resulted in the writings known as “The Battle of the Books”. “The Journal to Stella” was a collection of journal entries over a three year period (Degategno 6). He was involved in governmental processes and had direct interaction with policymakers in Ireland and England. Due to his exposure to the policy making process and its inability to accomplish change, he used his literary skills to write satirical poetry and pamphlets. He was known as the master of irony. Some of his greatest satirical works were “The Tale of the Tub”, “The Modest Proposal” and “Gulliver’s Travels” (Crook).

"A Tale of a Tub"

This was one of Swift's first works. It was written over several years and was" wild and ingenious that it surprised Swift himself as an older man"(Fox 206). Tremnant-swift.jpghis story is about three brothers who were
supposed to follow their father's will and wear the coats he left them. They soon learned that they could manipulate the will so that it could be interpreted to suit theirs wants and needs. In the end this led to dissension among them and to the downfall of their family. This is a satirical view of the church and what happens when the clergy manipulate the rules to suit their desires. This insight or point of view came from his many positions in the church through the late 1690's to early 1700's when he served as an ordained deacon, he was installed as an prebendary, and he was an emissary of the church (Nokes xvii). He later wrote an apology that was meant to appease the public, but in reality just re-iterated his point of view (Fox 206).

"A Modest Proposal"

"A Modest Proposal" is one of Swift's greatest satirical essays. During the time that this was written the people of Ireland where starving due to the famine of the land and the government not having any type of social security in place to take care of the people.
Swift was a sensationalist and used satire to grab the attention of the people with his writings. Appalled that the government was not taking care of the poor and the increasing number of women beggars, he proposed that the people eat their children once they reached the tender age of one year old. This would solve several issues in the country such as hunger, overcrowding and create an increase in the economy. He felt that because the government wasn’t making any effort to come up with a solution for the Irish communities, that surely this plan would be effective. Why is it if the government was going to allow people to die of famine and sickness, then society would be opposed to his plan? Obviously his plan was meant to be satirical in nature and was intended to grab society’s attention.

Satire of the 21st Century

Political satire has progressed from pamphlets, to essays, to artistic drawings, cartoons and to modern day television shows. Some examples of modern day satire are the show South Park and political advertisements and cartoons. Although South Park is mainly satirical humor it portrays many truths of our weak society and government, including racism, homosexuality and religion. For instance, there is one black child at the school and his name is "Token", he is the one "token" black child in a white society. One of the teachers is a man who is a closet homosexual and it has followed him through the years until he actually has a sex change. All of this goes unnoticed because they are trying to show how society today is not appalled by anything. In other episodes they ridicule Scientology and have Tom Cruise trapped in the closet. The trick with this show is for the audience to take the literal cartoon of Tom Cruise in a closet and see the play on words and inference that he is gay and "in the closet". South Park has the typical poor kid, Kenny, and makes reference to his "white trash" parents and the way they have more children and they can't even feed Kenny. The list goes on and on. No matter how distasteful this show is, it gets a reaction. People think it is stupid, but if they ever sat and watched a few shows, they would see the messages that are disguised as humor and put ideas in people’s heads. Albeit sometimes, they don't even know that they are supposed to get the meaning. There is nothing that is too sacred. They have Jesus, Mohammed, and even President Obama. That is what good satire is all about.

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Works Cited

Crook, Keith. A Preface to Swift. London: Longman, 1998. Print.
DeGategno, Paul J., and R. Jay. Stubblefield. Critical Companion to Jonathan Swift: a Literary Reference to His Life and Works. New York: Facts on File, 2006. Print.
Fox, Christopher. The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Swift. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge UP, 2003. Print.
"Google Images." Google. Web. 25 April 2011. <>.

"Google Images." Google. Web. 28 Apr. 2011. < 2004/remnant-swift.jpg>.
Hunting, Robert. Jonathan Swift. New York: Twayne, 1967. Print.
“Jonathan Swift - A Modest Proposal." The Art Bin Magazine. Web. 03 Apr. 2011. <>.
Nokes, David. Jonathan Swift, a Hypocrite Reversed: a Critical Biography. Oxford [Oxfordshire: Oxford UP, 1985. Print.
"Yahoo! Image Detail for -" Yahoo! Image Search. Web. 28 April 2011. < park&b=127&ni=21&ei=UTF-8&xargs=0&pstart=1&fr=yfp-t-701>.
"YouTube - A Modest Proposal." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. 25 Mar. 2006. Web. 29 Mar. 2011. <>.

Nokes,GGloria Escobar’s review of Melissa Carpenter’s Wiki page
The topic that you choose is one of the greatest pieces of satire ever written. You have the concept very clear and describe very well the meaning of the satirical work in literature; based on that, it would be great if you add more content about your topic, specifically to the Jonathan Swift work “A Modest Proposal” without deleting your other points that I believe are very interesting, and very well adapted to our times such as the “Satire of the 21st Century”. In the beginning of your page it would be great if you add a little bit more of size to the picture in order to eliminate the white space between the picture and the table of contents. I also suggest adding more color to your page. Adding color to your titles and underlining will enhance the appearance of your content. You can also add some pictures of his literary works as you stated “The Tale of the Tub” and “Gulliver Travels”. You can find very good sources of images in this site
Add more white spaces to identify the different sections of the page; and check in our Little Penguin Handbook for a quick review of MLA citation rules.
I consider that the overall content of your work is very well stated, and you have a very good knowledge about your topic. I like very much the video; it adds great contribution to your page. Please notice that one of your images is not showing.
Please remember that these are only my suggestions, and personal opinions. I can be wrong, but I left this comments to your consideration. I also have a lot of review on my page, but checking other’s people pages is helping me a lot to correct my mistakes.

Crystal Guida's review of Melissa Carpenter's WIki page
Your topic is very interesting. You need a transition from talking about satire to talking about Jonathan Swift such as "One author who mastered the effective use of satire.. " I love your video--not only does it show modern day satire but also links directly to your topic!! Awesome!! You might want to expand on your topic by having a section on The Tale of the Tub and Gulliver's Travels. It would also help you meet the 1000 word minimum. You have a little too much white space before About the Author. Be careful with comma splices. More consistency with font would be beneficial.

JoLynn Gertson's review of Melissa Carpenter's Wiki page
Hi Melissa, I really enjoyed reading your Wiki page. However, I have to agree with the two posts above. You need to add a transition between talking about the meaning of satire and talking about Jonathan Swift. I really like how you added a link for the table of contents. The definiton of satire in the introduction is very good. I think there might be too much "white space" between the author and the picture. Try deleting some of it and see how you like it. The overall design, research and documentation looks great. Good luck and I hope this helps!