This week’s post is dedicated to six of history’s most famous literary satires. There will be a second instalment featuring more recent and contemporary satires next week. Click on the links to read my reviews.
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726)
Gulliver’s Travels is a humorous and vulgar satirical work that mocks politics, non-conformist churches, science, the social order and the accepted role of the family.
My Review: Intrepid English adventurer Lemuel Gulliver’s fictional memoirs are divided into four parts. In the first our shipwrecked protagonist is washed ashore in the land of Lilliput, a place populated by people so…(more)
Subjects Satirised: Pretty much everything
Candide by Voltaire (1759)
Candide is an eighteenth-century satirical classic that evaluates optimism; the prevailing philosophical ideology of The Enlightenment. Voltaire sought to dispel the belief that all is for the best when it is not.
My Review: Brought up in the household of a German baron, cheerful protagonist Candide has been instilled with the philosophy of Leibniz, notably – That all is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds…(more)
Subjects Satirised: The Church & The Enlightenment
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (1842)
Dead Souls is an uncompleted, satirical novel that parodies Imperial Russia and provincial Russian life. Targets for ridicule include the gentry and rural officials.
My Review: Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov is travelling around provincial Russia, visiting landowners. His purpose is to purchase papers relating to their serfs who have died since the last census. By doing so Chichikov relieves…(more)
Subjects Satirised: Provincial Russian life & more besides
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a satire of American southern antebellum society that parodies religion, morality, literature and above all the practice of slavery.
My Review: 13-year-old Huckleberry Finn is living in Missouri with a widow who plans to ‘sivilize’ him. That is until his alcoholic father relocates him to an isolated cabin in the woods. Huck fakes his own death and escapes…(more)
Subjects Satirised: Slavery & numerous others
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)
This dystopian work utilises erudite social commentary and subtle satire to explore mankind’s inherent nature. Huxley’s portentous vision has proven to be prescient.
My Review: Brave New World is set in a society where everything is controlled. The parentless, manufactured, free-loving population are dependent on a state-endorsed hallucinogenic, happiness drug called Soma…(more)
Subjects Satirised: Society, technology & totalitarianism
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (1932)
Light-hearted and wryly humorous, this satirical work lampoons the romanticised, often doom-laden ‘loam and lovechild’ novels of the 19th and early 20th century.
My Review: Although harbouring concerns about countryside living, recently orphaned, 19-year-old Flora Poste decides to go and live with relatives in rural Sussex. Her destination, the ramshackle and backward Cold…(more)
Subject Satirised: Loam and lovechild novels
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