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What are some techniques used to convey satire in the 18th century?

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saulsarena | Student | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted January 14, 2013 at 3:08 PM via web

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What are some techniques used to convey satire in the 18th century?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:56 PM (Answer #1)

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One key way in which satire was conveyed in the 18th century was through the technique of allegory. This is when events and characters from a work of literature relate directly to a real-life person or a real historical event. A great example of this from the 18th century is Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, where in particular Part I corresponds very closely with actual historical events and certain characters are meant to be satirical caricatures of real life figures that Swift was obviously poking fun at. Thus, Lilliput can be seen to stand for England, with Blefuscu representing England's ancient foe, France. Note how the Lilliputians talk about Gulliver and their enemy:

He shall be our ally against our enemies in the island of Blefescu, and do his utmost to destroy their fleet, which is now preparing to invade us.

In addition to alluding to real historical tensions through allegory, Swift also refers through allegory to actual happenings much closer to home. Note for example the way that the Empress expresses outrage at Gulliver extinguishing a palace fire with his urine corresponds directly to various complaints Queen Anne made about Swift's writings and how "vulgar" they were. Such parallels add great humour to the satire of this novel and would no doubt have ben richly enjoyed by Swift's contemporary audience. Thus one technique used to develop satire in the 18th century was allegory.

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