Compare and contrast Samuel Pepys' style in his diary entries with Jonathan Swift's style in "Gulliver's Travels."

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Both Samuel Pepys and Jonathan Swift wrote with little embellishment, Pepys from a literal vantage point and Swift from a figurative one. In both Pepys' diary and Swift's Gulliver's Travels, there is little in terms of self-reflection or introspection. Pepys' diary entries are factual and unadorned by comments of a personal nature.

Consider Pepys' diary entry for September 2nd, 1666: this is the account of how the Great Fire of London began and of the damage it inflicted on the city. Pepys wrote that he was alerted to the fire by Jane, one of his maids. The rest of the diary entry for that day consisted of a dispassionate account of events as they unfolded. Accordingly, little could be done to save the houses and buildings in the fire's path. Like many Londoners, Pepys took pains to secure important documents and belongings after it became apparent that the fire could not be suppressed. 

Upon Pepys' suggestion, the king gave the command to pull down the houses in the fire's path. Sadly, all such efforts to thwart the fire's advance proved futile. Pepys' rapport with King Charles II is contrasted with Swift's uncomfortable detente with the fictional Emperor of Lilliput in the first part of Gulliver's Travels. While the monarch of Pepys' account is largely accommodating and responsive, the monarch of Swift's account must be mollified into action. It is only after Gulliver's compassionate treatment of the six soldiers (who tried to execute him) that the king relaxes his wary stance towards his giant prisoner. He orders Gulliver to be supplied with "a proportionate quantity of bread and wine" and "other victuals" for his sustenance. The emperor also has his tailors design suitable clothing for Gulliver and commissions his "greatest scholars" to teach Gulliver the Lilliputian language.

In Pepys' world, the king is an informed and sympathetic public figure, but in Gulliver's fictional world, a monarch is often arbitrary and impossibly difficult to please. Unlike Pepys, Swift definitely provides a more nuanced view of the English monarch.

It is true that Pepys' world is literal and the events he relates are historical, while Swift's world is fictional. Both Pepys and Swift even utilize linear narratives and largely dispassionate tones in their respective stories. However, there is one important difference: where Pepys' account of life is candid and unadorned with analytical insight, Swift's account of an Englishman's fictional life is satirical in nature.

Swift uses Gulliver's varied experiences to criticize the British government, colonialism, science, and human nature. Read Perceptions of Satire In Gulliver's Travels in order to help you understand what Swift is satirizing in his story. As with Pepys, Swift chooses not to include a running commentary of his personal musings. He merely relates what Gulliver sees and experiences during his travels, leaving us readers to deduce for ourselves the significance of Gulliver's exploits. 

 

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Gulliver's Travels

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