Swift and Moliere’s Contributions to the Enlightenment Age
Two of the most known and important literary works that exemplifies the 17th and 18th Centuries and outlines the Enlightenment Age are “Tartuffe” and “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to their Parents or Country, and for Making them Beneficial to their Public”. Jean-BaptistePoquelin, known as Moliere, and John Swift created the masterpieces. Tartuffe is a satirical comedy play and “A Modest Proposal” (the short name for Swift’s work) is a satirical political essay supported by statistical information. Both pieces of literature adhere strictly to its genre; various similarities as well as contrasting differences can be traced among the works. Poverty, religion, andpolitics are discussed in its individual purpose and reflect the ideology of the Enlightenment Age in its own ways. These masterpieces do not provoke the same reaction on the reader, one brings up laughs, and the other disgust by the authors’ words, but both works effectively transmits their message: Swift’s perspective of poverty considered a disease and the authors’ shared opinion that religion wasthe reason for most of the major problems occurring in their times in society.
The “Enlightenment Age” or the “Age of Reason” that took place between the years between 1650 and 1800 first in Western Europe, England and later in the American colonies. It was not only a reference event to the religious rebellion in favor of the less fortunate and church’s power over humankind but simply referred toas “a confluence of ideas and activities” (The Enlightenment-Literature Periods and Movements). Both Swift and Moliere used satire style in their literary works to express their contribution to the movement. Satire stands for “the use of humor and wit with a critical attitude, irony, sarcasm, or ridicule for exposing or denouncing the frailties and faults of mankind’s activities and institutions,such as folly, stupidity, or vice. This usually involves both moral judgment and a desire to help improve a custom, belief, or tradition”. (Guide to Literary Terms)
Played for the first time in 1664 (The Enlightenment Period-The Oxford Guide to Philosophy), religious hypocrisy is a subject clearly noticed on Moliere’s Tartuffe. The sacred home of a loving family comes close to an end due tostrategically planned actions by a charlatan who disguised himself as a man of great sanctity, symbolizing the voice of the church, and easily manipulates the two most powerful figures in the play, which symbolizes the church’s followers. Moliere makes sure to address that even the most knowledgeable and educated could be tricked into provoking their own fall when blinded by certain powers predominantin society. On the other hand, Swift does not use hypocrisy to prove his point, but is as efficacious as Moliere is when commenting religious control over society. Swift’s A Modest Proposal, written in 1729 (The Enlightenment Period-The Oxford Guide to Philosophy), is more direct on the issue for being the author himself an active member of the Anglican Church. The essay criticizes the wealthy,which not for mere coincidence were also part of the religious segment. Swift reprimands his peers for not caring about the poor Catholic population because of their religion and begins a journey to convince his readers to adhere to his proposal to resolve his society’s poverty issue. The number factor of poor children comes from the number of poor parents that cannot afford to raise their childrenproperly, so by selling these babies at one year of age as food for the rich, the problem would have been solved. He says, “I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children” (A Modest Proposal, The Norton Anthology Western Literature p. 341). The proposal now...
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