He says that men wouldn’t ‘offer to beat or kick [their wives] during their time of pregnancy for fear of a miscarriage’. Orwell’s writing is about death, a topic that would not usually have been discussed in the conversational manner he uses. The use of hyperbole in Swift’s writing adds to the sense of repulsion felt by the reader. In ‘A Modest Proposal’, he doesn’t simply state that we should eat babies, but goes on and on with more gruesome ideas. He suggests recipes and even recommends ‘flaying the carcass’ to make ‘admirable gloves…
and summer boots’, all of which is simply revolting to the reader. In ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ he goes into explicit detail about the most disgusting of bodily functions as in Lilliput where he cannot resist putting in that his faeces was ‘carried off in wheelbarrows’. Orwell doesn’t exaggerate in ‘How The Poor Die’ but simply emphasises and reiterates his point on the disgraceful lack of respect shown for the lives of the poor. There are several sentences and phrases that Swift uses in a casual, flippant way that provoke repulsion the reader.
For example he speaks of the ‘twenty thousand carcasses’ as if they were cattle and he talks of ‘infant-flesh’ in the same way that someone might talk of lamb. The idea that babies should be eaten at ‘merry-meetings, particularly weddings and christenings’ is especially horrifying. In ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ the language is never coarse and the subject matter isn’t as far-fetched as in ‘A Modest Proposal’, yet it is still revolting to the reader. For example, to read of how the Yahoos would outcast their leader’s favourite and then ‘discharge their excrements upon him from head to foot’.
Orwell is far more subtle than Swift, choosing to stay away from the scatological and simply state what he sees. He describes a box into which ‘scraps of food and dirty dressings from the ward were flung’. This naturally repels the reader, especially as it is in a hospital. He also chooses to concentrate on the upsetting the readers’ feelings rather than their stomach. The horrible idea of a ‘death not even noticed till the morning’ disturbs me in a different way to Swift’s writing. Both Swift and Orwell disgust the reader by making them confront some of people’s worst fears.
Swift deals with the gruesome concept of cannibalism, and Orwell discusses two very common fears: poverty and undignified death. One of the worst, in my opinion is the violation and lack of respect for the dead. The detail with which Swift describes his idea is chilling, the accurate calculation of figures is also disturbing. As he justifies it, it seems the idea could almost be reasonable, after all, he has taken something that is completely acceptable for us to do to animals, and replaced it with babies.
If it weren’t for the bitter, cynical tone of his writing and the sardonic humour that comes through, the reader could believe that he actually wanted to eat children. Near the end of ‘How The Poor Die’, Orwell refers to the poor having ‘their teeth extracted with no anaesthetic’. This would strike a chord with many readers as a huge number of people will have had a tooth extracted at some point in their lives and would be able to sympathise directly with the victims. In ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ the revolting sections seem more light-hearted in a way, than the other two pieces.
I find Gulliver earnestly describing unpleasant processes a little sickening, slightly funny, but not very disturbing. I think that the disgusting sections in ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ are less important than those in ‘A Modest Proposal’ and ‘How The Poor Die’. I find it difficult to choose whose approach is more effective as the two writers are quite different. They both had social consciences: Swift was a dean and Orwell an early socialist, however I get the impression that Swift is angrier about poverty and it shows in the unbelievable nature of his writing.
Orwell doesn’t seem as passionate as Swift, as he doesn’t use such emotive language and writes in a blunt, flat way. In conclusion, I find Swift more effective. This is probably due to the outrageous, offensive nature of what he has written in ‘A Modest Proposal’. I think that by writing in this entertaining way and amusing the reader he is more effective than Orwell.