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Tale of a Tub by Jonathan Swift, Book Review Example

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Book Review

Introduction

A Tale of a Tub has been referred to as one of the greatest English satires on religious devotion and political differences. Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical story about three brothers; Martin jack and peter that represented the three main branches of Christian church i.e. Anglicanism also called the England church, Dissent also referred to as the protestant church and Catholicism respectively. On the other part, Jonathan talked about challenging issues in different filed s such as political and other areas that were being affected by the change of technology into a new world. He used modern man point of view in expressing his views satirically. However, unlike other books, Tale of a Tub does not give the readers a solution to the information that has been satirized hence the reason many people avoid reading it.

Publication

A tale of a tub by Jonathan swift was composed in the 1690’s and published in 1704. Other than the tale talking about the three main Christian churches it also discusses ‘digression’ which is a series of contemporary writing in politics, literature, biblical exegesis and theology. When the book was being composed and published, religion and politics were closely linked in England hence the reason why the political and religious aspects in the Tale of a Tub are too unique. This book contains the most difficult satire of Jonathan’s work with his work being widely misunderstood after its publishing. Jonathan used satire expresses his critics to political leaders and religious perspectives that he felt where affecting development in England.

Overview

A tale of a Tub is divided into sections of a ‘tale’ and various forms of digression. The book is designed like a layer cake with the Tale and the Digression alternating in all the book’s sections. However the digression slightly overwhelms ‘the tale’ in terms of imaginativeness of writing, volume and influence. Some of the sections being referred to as ‘tale’ its contents are that of Digression. The ‘tale’ in the Tale of a Tub is a story concerning the adventures of 3 brothers Jack, Martin and Peter.

Each of the brothers represented one of the three western churches. One of the brother’s Peter was named after St. Peter and represented the Catholic Church. Jack the second brother was named after John Calvin and represented the protestant or dissenting churches. The last brother Martin was named after Martin Luther who is used by Jonathan to represent Anglican; the Church of England. The 3 brothers inherited satisfactory coats from their father. This symbolically means they represented religious practices that they where give by God.

In addition to having the satisfaction coats, they also got their father’s will which signifies the Bible. According to their fathers will the 3 brothers are instructed not to alter their coats but ironically, they started altering their coats from the beginning and hence resulting to crash of interests was the main reason there were many challenges and differences between the 3 churches at the period the book was composed. The metaphor of the ‘tale’ story is an apology for the church of British refusal to change their practice to fit with the Puritan demands and the continual resistant of the British church to an alliance with the Roman church. In this book, its shown how Jack and peter continues to alter their coats despite their efforts to maintain them until they were completely different when compared to that of Martin who rigidly refused to alert his.

Generally speaking a Tale of a Tub is a big satire with a number of smaller satires within. The Tale of A tub story has received many criticisms with many critics arguing that the story does not show consistent work of a particular narrator. This is because there is no single character posing as the writer and that most of the characters which Jonathan employed in writing the story have in one or more ways functioned as a single identity hence adding to the Jonathan Swift satires.

Swift writes the Tale with the characters posing as the modern man. According to many book analysis’s, Jonathan swift wrote the book in a purely skeptic perspective. He can hence not be reviewed as a religious writer or even a Whig, empiricist or even a Tory. This is because he supported the aristocracy and established churches and also supported the traditional in the quarrels between the Moderns and the Ancients since according to his views he felt the other alternatives were far much worse. It’s due to this that it can be argued that Jonathan was against the rapid modernization that England was experiencing in the religious and political fields. Swift targets in his tale included people who saw ‘dark matter’ in books, indexers and note makers.

Some of the targeted critics who were aimed by swifts work included William Wotton who offered to give an answer about the story and also Curl one of Jonathan targeted enemy who explained about the book to the public. These two were politicians who were for the technology development and change of religious perspectives.

In the tale section, the 3 brothers Martin, Jack and Peter fall into bad companies that influences them from the official roman religion and influences them in altering their coats’ faith’ and start adding ornaments. The three brothers then start depending in peter for the will and hence gave him the authority to rule over the other. This was exactly what was happening in England who depended on a monarch head who was the head of a church despite having chosen a king.

This continues until Jack, one of the brothers rebels against him and beings to read the bible ‘will’. Jack tries to remove all the alterations they had made in his coat so as to retain the original coat state which represented going back to the primitive form of Christianity which was sort by the Protestants. After rebelling from Peter, Jack starts depending on inner illumination for spiritual guidance. To do so, he started walking with his eyes close especially after swallowing candle snuffs and which he would claim he has had a vision or Father’s illumination on a particular issue. However instead of making the coat more original he ends up altering it until his coat and that of Peter resemble each other and only Martin is left with a coat resembling the original one.

One of the important aspects about the writer in Jonathan’s A tale of a tub is that the narrator is an extremist in all perspectives whether in the tale section or in the digression section such that he ends up losing control and becoming satirical a phenomena he eventually confesses to be insane. The story about the three brothers has different effects to different people. For readers’ belonging to the Church of England, the story provides them with some comfort since it tries to show them how they have maintained the will of the father by not altering the coat. This is because Martin who is representing the Church of England thou he has corrupted his will and altered the coat by adding ornaments, he still maintains the virtue of not adding the excesses that is two other brother have added to their coats.

Cultural Setting

The Tale of a Tub was written and published during the England restoration period; the period when revolution began to alter every aspect of the society (McKeon, 167, 1997). It hence became possible for many member of the society to be able to publish any form of work if they had little cash. This resulted to increased number of books and digests at relatively low prices a condition that resulted into many politicians begin to critics the many books sprouting up. The writer wrote the story from a perspective of a modern person who was overjoyed by what the new world had brought. The writer Swift felt that he was more advantaged than the previous writers since he had the chance to experience modern technology and other opinions that according to him where much modern and with more knowledge.

It’s due to his satirical skeptical questions that he used to pose to the rigid that annoyed most of the people that felt he had gotten the modern way of life and hence resulted to increased critics of his work. Hence it can be concluded that if the writer Jonathan Swift was not a fan of aristocracy he was then an opponent of democracy. Jonathan’s work was meant to satirically provide a picture of the foolish writers. The Tale of a Tub was written in a period when there was no proper distinction between the religion, politics and education. In the cultural environment where the story was written, the monarchy was the end of the church while the education system both the secondary and tertiary level had a political tradition. Hence when Jonathan satirically attacks the modern he is directly attacking the new trade world, the protestant or dissenting believers and degree the political parties.

About the Author

Jonathan Swift wrote the book Tale of a Tub as he prepared to leave the temple service. At first the book was interpreted to be meant for temple battles due to the concerns that Jonathan had aired out about the religious arguments that had been going on for over 10 years (Mckeon, 267). According to Swift, he suggested that the argument between the moderns and the ancients was due to positions the two group had placed them self into.

According to Jonathan, the moderns felt they knew more because they were dwarves standing on the shoulders of the giants. It’s believed the England discussions fueled Swift’s imagination since he saw the issues arising from the ancients and the moderns as a symbol of the two ways one could view the world. In this book Tale of a Tub, Jonathan particularly attacks everyone who praises modernity as the source of all the changes that where visible in the society in that period. But unlike other ancients, Swift did not too support the fact that it’s the classical or ancient world that had played key role in bring the changes in the society.

It’s clear that Jonathan did not write the tale of a Tub to get a clerical position within the England church. However most critics suggest that that despite the fact that he did not write it to get an high church position he was intending to use the fame it will bring to establish himself as a political figure or as an influential man. He managed to get this influential figure from the book but that did not win him a modest living. Jonathan Swift received various awards from his work from both the government and the religious circles. It is also speculated that Jonathan’s writing could have caused a rift between him and his employer since they both wanted to be viewed as more influential and prophetic.

Satire

Tale of a Tub satire are hard to be said what they are all about since they touch different areas and in different perspective. The satire nature in the Tales is experienced in both the Tale’s sections and the digression section where the characters seem to be more symbolic and over educated both in the religious and the political perspective. The teller of tales seems to be looking for unnatural knowledge, on spiritual things and also seeking spiritual qualities in physical things ad even trying to seek extra understanding on everything a position that leads him to being satirical. One of the way through which Jonathan managed to bring the satirical nature in his tales is because the narrator seems to be an extremist in all perspectives. Hence he cannot construct sound stories without losing control whether taking of tales or digressions.

It’s due to its satiric character that by the end of the story most readers are confused on which information to believe in and which to interpret as over represented. The main reason why Jonathan Swift in his tale of Tale of a Tub used satire is so that he can very easily expose people and groups he was planning to expose. He did this by imitating their individualities especially to bring mockery to the targeted persons. In addition the nature of satire that was exposed in this tale of a tub story was relatively unique since it did not provide the solutions for the event he was exposing. Jonathan Swift used the satire nature to ridicule foolish habits that were shown by political and religious leaders. He however did not give any positive values or corrective measures that the readers could embrace. The failure of Jonathan to give his readers any way out of the foolish habits discouraged many people from reading his work.

Political Point of View

The Tale of a Tub in a political point of view can be seen to be highlighting three main stages of human achievement; the gallows, the pulpit and the theater. Despite the fact that during this period a king had been elected, every politically aware Englishman understood that there was a law demanding everyone to pledge allegiance to the monarch who at this time was also the head of the church. During this period, there were religious struggle between the dissenting or protestant churches and the Church of England. The dissenter’s where particularly intolerant in many political policies and made it evident that at any time the elected king could be overthrown and a new king picked. During the period that Jonathan was writing this tale it was common for the Protestants to start accusing political leaders and refereed to them as anti Christ, moves that resulted to riots and other peculiar behaviors.

These effects which were being caused by the protestants could be felt in most British politics levels and where also viewed to cause the British economy change. Most politicians felt that Jonathan was more allied to the ancients’ camp and that he was opposed to some of the changes that the modern world was bringing such as the industrial revolution that was beginning at the time this book was written

Conclusion

The tale of a tub was one of the books that made the writer Jonathan Swift became more popular. The book however resulted into many controversies especially from the people he had critiqued in the narrative. Tale of a Tub was one of the most complex narratives since it did not have any consisted single narrator but rather the many characters who posed as the author tried to bring a single impersonation hence making it hard for the readers to exactly tell if the book consisted of different characters or a single one.  When writing the tale of a tub, Jonathan poses as a modern man. The title tale of a Tub according to Jonathan’s explanation meant that the state’s ship was being endangered by a whale; that is the new political and technological advances. The book was meant to highlight many perspectives that were bothering the England state at that point but satirically.

Some of the aspects that the book highlighted was the religious conflicts that were represented by the three brothers; Jack, Marti and peter. Jack and Peter continued to alter their coats against to their fathers will and this could have been one of the causes of the development of rift between different church leaders.

Work Cited

McKeon, Michael. The Origins of the English Novel 1600–1740. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1997. 378 pages

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