1999-09-10 Complicated censorship during the Enlightenment forced many philosophes to use satire as a tool to express their criticism towards European society. Through great works of literature, the philosophes were able to effectively use ridicule and satire to criticize many aspects of European society. Swift s A Modest Proposal applied sarcasm and irony to create an atmosphere of humour. This atmosphere allowed him to criticize English policies and absentee English landlords in an effort to showcase the poverty being suffered in Ireland.
The plot ridiculously concerns an Englishman s proposal to eat poor children, yet uses this story as a mask to criticize European society. While the main theme in this piece of literature is the gross poverty of the Irish population, Swift also criticizes marriage, greedy landlords, and aristocratic taverns. The humour that he uses to present this serious subject may have clouded the thoughts of some simple-minded peasants, yet for the Bourgeois, A Modest Proposal effectively presented the blight tormenting the poor of Ireland. Through the adventures in Gulliver s Travels, Swift was able to criticize various institutions, using Gulliver as a symbol of the typical self-satisfied Englishman.
By trying to explain to foreign royalty the aspects controlling English society, Gulliver unintentionally presented the unreasonableness of the English political, legal, economic, and social systems. There exists little humour in Gulliver s Travels, yet the reasonable questions asked by the foreign royalty clearly makes various aspects of English society seem absurd. Similar to Gulliver s Travels, in the satire Candide Voltaire uses the travels of a young student to challenge authority and mock blind optimism. By taking a literary approach of criticism, Voltaire was able to present his philosophy in an enjoyable form, encouraging more peopl to read his work. While the satire and humor in the literature of Swift and Voltaire may have shadowed some of the facts, it encouraged more people to read their work, and helped to prevent them from getting in trouble with the authorities.