A Description of a City Shower Themes
by Jonathan Swift

Start Your Free Trial

Download A Description of a City Shower Study Guide

Subscribe Now

A Description of a City Shower Themes

Jonathan Swift's poem is, as the title suggests, a description of a rainy day in a city. It describes not only the period before the rain storm breaks out, when the washerwomen are bringing in their laundry and people are careful not to venture too far from home, but also the behavior of the various people in the city when the shower has broken out.

One of the key themes in the poem pertains to the fact that this is a description of rain not in the country, but in a big city, a melting pot of different sorts of people. For Swift, what is most interesting about the rain storm is that it is experienced by everybody equally—the rain is a sort of universal leveler, with all humans seeking the same thing: shelter from this storm. When the storm happens, it brings together people from all walks of life, eradicating, for a brief period, their differences. Words like "joined" and "confluence" emphasize this theme: unity in the city comes from an unlikely source, as the rainstorm makes it evident that people who think they have nothing in common do, actually, share many fundamentally human qualities.

Swift illustrates this particularly with a joke about Tories and Whigs—members of two competing political parties in England at the time of writing—gathering beneath the same shelter in order to preserve their "wigs." Their political differences are, in this moment, less important to them than the natural instinct to hide from the downpour. Likewise, other people of "various fortunes" find themselves behaving in the same way and brushing shoulders with people from outside of their usual social circle because the rain is rushing through "all parts." Rain does not discriminate between the rich and the poor, but drums down upon everyone equally.

In large part, Swift's poem is intended to be comical, but it also seems to be making an overarching point about the universality of nature. While we as humans tend to focus upon the differences separating certain groups, nature does not observe any of this. Acts of God are the ultimate leveler.

Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Swift remains the premier satirist in the English language. (His 1726 prose satire Gulliver’s Travels is arguably the finest satire in any language.) Besides a...

(The entire section is 559 words.)