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is it true that swift is a misanthropeHow far is it true to say that SWIFT is a...

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maahaa | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted October 21, 2010 at 2:42 AM via web

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is it true that swift is a misanthrope

How far is it true to say that SWIFT is a misanthrope?Discuss with reference to GULLIVER'S TRAVELS?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 21, 2010 at 7:52 PM (Answer #2)

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A misanthrope can be defined as one who hates or distrusts mankind.  To some extent, perhaps that's true.  Swift seems more to be disgusted at his fellow man than either hateful toward or distrustful of them.  His goal in each of his major writings, including Gulliver's Travels, is more to point out flaws in an attempt to change them (which is, of course, the definition of satire).  Hatred for something or someone does not typically engender a desire to make them better; a true misanthrope, it seems to me, wouldn't even bother. 

Lori Steinbach

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted October 22, 2010 at 1:34 PM (Answer #3)

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I agree with Aunt Lori. Swift does not hate or distrust mankind to my knowledge. He has, however, lost faith in his fellow man. Perhaps he was tired of those who expressed hate towards the downtrodden and less fortunate, but his writing were an attempt to point out the others. If he hated mankind, he probably would not have pursued writing literature with the messages that his literature had. 

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted October 22, 2010 at 1:50 PM (Answer #4)

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I would say that Swift certainly had his finger on the pulse of some of the most common of our human flaws, and he points out those flaws in each place Gulliver ends up in his travels.  Swift doesn't hate man, but he hates psuedo-intellectualism; he hates pettiness, he hates self-engrandizement; he hates the disparity in social classes and the treatment of the lower classes by the upper classes.

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winter567 | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted November 24, 2011 at 11:56 PM (Answer #5)

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Jonathan Swift has been called a misanthrope,a hater of humanity and Gulliver's Travels is considered to be an expression of savage misanthropy.Swift offered an new definition of man as not a rational animal ('animal rationale') but as an animal capable of reason ('animal rationis capax').This,according to him,is the foundation upon which his 'misanthropy'is erected.Swift,also,believed that human nature is deeply flawed and all we have to do is to recognize its moral and intellectual limitations.So,he called this attitude 'misanthropy' which is mostly obvious in the last book where he ends up rejecting human society. 

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legendim | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 28, 2011 at 12:25 AM (Answer #6)

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I agree with Aunt Lori. Swift does not hate or distrust mankind to my knowledge. He has, however, lost faith in his fellow man. Perhaps he was tired of those who expressed hate towards the downtrodden and less fortunate, but his writing were an attempt to point out the others. If he hated mankind, he probably would not have pursued writing literature with the messages that his literature had. 

I Agree With ask 996

Swift is not a misanthrope rather he is a philanthrope. It is the misconception of those who think Swift as a misanthrope. Swift only wants to reform mankind out of their follies and stupidities. He says that the chief end of all his labour is:
“to vex the world rather than divert it”.
Secondly, he declares that:
“I have ever hated all nations, professions, and communities and all his love is towards individuals.”
Thirdly, though Swift does not believe that:
“Man is a rational animal”.
Yet he believes that:
“Man is capable of becoming rational if he makes the necessary efforts.

“The best code of conduct is Golden Mean which is ‘balance’.”
So he mis-defines Man. However, the fact of the matter remains whether Swift becomes a misanthrope or not, but can we impute Gulliver’s misanthropy to Swift? If we virtually succeed to establish, some identity between Swift and Gulliver, Swift, too, will become a misanthrope.
But according to Swift a man is he who strikes a balance between rationality and sensuality and this balance is not gifted by birth. It has to be acquired. That’s why even Gulliver is subjected to Swift’s satire, for he loses the said balance.
That is the reason we don’t identify Gulliver with Swift and, inspite of Gulliver’s misanthropy, we call Swift a great philanthropist. As he, himself, says:

“I write for the noblest end, to inform and instruct mankind.”

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