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A Feminist Approach on Jonathan Swift's
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| Words: 1850 | Submitted: 06-Jun-2010
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DescriptionA Feminist Approach on Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver Travels"
In the time of Swift, women were considered the legal responsibility of their fathers or husbands. Whatever a woman said in public was a reflection of the ideas of her father or husband. The ideal wife was obedient, for if not their husbands were allowed to physically discipline them. The general view of women was that of an object to be enjoyed by men. It was feared that education of women might lead to a subversion of the natural order which gave men unquestioned dominance. It was commonly believed among men that women need not be educated at all, because their main purposes in society were to tend to domestic dealings and procreation.
Swift's view of woman was influenced by the times and the society that he lived in. The paucity of love in author's childhood and the little exposure he had to women when he was growing up also attributed to the corrosive personal isolation. Some critics like Lord Orrery, Middleton Murry and Norman O. Brown have suggested that Swift was a misogynist, because of the way in which he is attacking women's physical aspect. Jonathan Swift often mentions the female body with repugnance. He very often dwells with exaggerated horror at the sight of a woman’s body performing its normal bodily functions. Many have concluded from this that he hated women and considered them inferior to men. Gulliver hates humanity through women. Swift portrays women as inferior creatures, comparing them to lusty, dirty, and ignorant animals, ultimately leading to Gulliver's disgust in women in general at the end of the novel. In the moral domain, women inspire as much aversion as they do on the physical side.
In Lilliput, Gulliver illustrates the carelessness of women, when he retells the story of the fire. The only way to extinguish the fire is through urination, an act so lude and grotesque that a woman could not handle it. The queen is autocratic and infuriated when Gulliver urinates on her apartment to keep it from burning. She decrees that public urination be banned and that the contaminated building be left as it is. The method by which Gulliver describes this event, leads the reader to believe that only a woman would act so harshly to his actions.
In "A Voyage to Brobdingnag", when the farmer shows Gulliver to his wife, she screams with disgust, the way a woman would react to a bug. Gulliver in Brobdingnag discovers that his sense was more acute in proportion to his littleness. He sees everything magnified, he examines everything as if through a microscope. Looking up close at the women's anatomy, Gulliver notices that their skin seems very rough, discoloured and greasy. Also he has difficulty breathing because of their strong and repugnant scent. He is disgusted by the sight of their huge pores, spots, pimples, hair and moles and even more repulsed by one maiden who places Gulliver on her nipple to play.
Swift uses the Maids of Honour to illustrate flaws in a woman’s beauty that are generally overlooked or hidden. Gulliver expresses his aversion to their naked bodies. They were, "very far from being a tempting sight", and gave him, "any other emotions than those of horror and disgust". Gulliver makes the connection that the women of England, that he normally finds so beautiful, have the same flaws, but he just does not see them as easily because they are of the same size: "This made me reflect upon the fair skins of our English ladies, who appear so beautiful to us, only because they are of our own size, and their defects not to be seen but through a magnifying glass, where we find by experiment that the smoothest and whitest skins look rough and course and ill coloured." Only the women are described as having such horrible discoloured skin. Men had it too, but he only brought attention to the women.
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