It can be said that society has always been quite judgmental, and at times misguided when it comes to women. The negative perceptions that society has towards females are often times directly related toward her actions. What a female does seems to degrade her identity and capabilities in the eyes of some men. In the poems “The Lady’s Dressing Room” and The essay “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift, we can see both authors use of tone, form and style to develop their works. These poems are mainly driven by men’s attitudes towards women.
A man’s perceived opinion about women can negatively shape society’s views and perceptions of them. The poem “The Lady’s Dressing Room” is a satire about a woman’s appearance. In the poem the character Celia was fully degraded due to the state in which her dressing room was kept. Celia was criticized in the poem because she spent hours in her dressing room getting ready. This is also seen as a form of exaggeration and irony in the poem. The poet seems to exaggerate a lot in this poem.
He talks about Celia in this way in order to convey or project a negative perception of her. “Five hours (and who can do it less in? /By haughty Celia spent dressing; /The goddess from her chamber issues/Arrayed in lace, brocade, and tissues”, (swift 1-4). The quote shows that the poet clearly dislikes Celia or women in general; he is so disturbed by her dressing room that he degradingly comments on how long she takes to get dressed and why she needs that much time. This can also be seen as a form of attack; he is simply doing this to women in order to corrupt the fantasies that most men have when they see a young lady walking down the street.
Furthermore, in the poem when the character Strephon is repulsed after seeing Celia messy dressing room, we can see where the poet uses some indirect verbal expression to degrade Celia and get across his information without making himself appear sexist. “Nor be the handkerchief forgot /All vanished o’er with snuff and snot/ The stockings why should I expose, stained with moisture of her toes” (swift ,49-52). In this quote the poet is still taking about Celia, but he does it in a smart way in order to hide his true feelings. What he says is not necessarily what he means. “The lady’s Dressing Room” is written in a style where the author has four lines in between each numbered line.
I believe he arranged his poem in this way to add balance in the lines and show the readers where each thought ends, and a new one begins On the other hand, the essay “A modest proposal” is about social, political and economic problems Ireland. The author seems to start off the poem with a generalized essay format, but as the work progresses the format becomes redundant. He then moves on to the body paragraphs where he talks about the conditions in which people are living and then he goes on to introducing his modest proposal. This gave the people an idea on how to deal with the suffering they were encountering with their children.
While the proposal tried fixing various problems it in turn also degraded women at the same time. Swift’s focus was to make their children less of a burden on them, and more useful to the public and the country. Swift’s goal was to gather the underprivileged children and ship them off to rich landowners who could afford them. The poem is also rather ironic like “The Lady’s Dressing Room” and the poet uses an informal tone of voice to persuade the reader into thinking his points are important and realistic, and the people must follow his proposal if they want to stop their suffering.
This poem also contains a lot of exaggeration, which is directed mostly towards women. “The mothers, instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in strolling, to beg sustenance for their helpless infants, who, as they grow up, either turns thieves for want of work” (2431). The quote shows that Swift constantly talks about women in a degrading manner as if nothing good can come from them. It is almost as if he is insinuating that the women could not get jobs, and were only good for roaming the streets and begging for help.
In a way this locks women in a stereotypical gender role, that they cannot support themselves. In the poem, “The lady dressing room” Swift’s unpleasant thoughts of women was seen first in the second stanza where he realized that Celia was not the perfect, flawless women he thought her out to be. He says, “And first, a dirty smock appeared /Beneath the arm pits well besmeared / Strepton, the rogue, displayed its wide /And turn it around on every side” (swift 11-14).
The quote shows that swift has now developed a feeling of disgust toward Celia and all processes that she goes through when getting dressed. He is using what he sees in her dressing room to define her, and he is morally degrading and lessening her from the person he thought she was. Similarly, in “A Modest Proposal” Swift also shows some negative feelings towards women. His disturbing thoughts in his proposal are not helping the woman, but it is rather attacking and ripping them of their motherhood.
He states “That the remaining hundred thousand may at a year old be offered in sale to the person of quality and fortune through the kingdom, always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump, and fat for a good table” (2433). The quote shows once again Swift is morally attacking and degrading a female figure or in this case a motherly image. From his quote one can conclude that he believes that a mother whose sole purpose is to feed and support her child will sell her young children to anyone for the exchange of food or money.
He is rather silly to think this, because most mothers would rather starve and struggle to find other means of financial support to take care of her child rather than abandoning it. Jonathan swift, being the author of both poems, which women are being highly degraded and attacked in for being themselves and making their own decision. This shows that he clearly has a personal issue towards women, and it is by no mistake that the thoughts he shares within his writing are so biased.
In “The Modest Proposal” he talks about woman making the decision to have an abortion, he states “There is likewise another great advantage in my scheme, that it will prevent those voluntary abortions, and that horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children, alas too frequent among us, sacrificing the poor innocent babies” (2432). The quote shows once again Swift’s negative attitude towards female for the decisions and choices they make. His quote shows that he believes that women just decide to have an abortion without thinking or considering all possible options.
Moreover, in “The ladies dressing rooms” as Swift progresses on in the poem towards the ending we can see a change in his tone of voice from when he started. He seems to get rather angry and more disturbed as he sees more of Celia belongings lying on the dressing room floor. He says, “Thus finishing his grand survey, the Swain disgusted slunk away, repeating in his amorous fits, “Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia shits! ” (115-118). The quote supports the idea of his tone of voice changing because the exclamation marks used in the poem demonstrate a sudden change in energy or strong emotion.
Overall, we can see that these works are very degrading and condescending. They are mainly aimed at attacking the actions and ways of women, especially when it comes to their physical and outward appearance. Often times men in society tend to have an air of superiority that they hold over women. Although this takes place, men need to realize that women especially nowadays are capable of doing amazing and incredible things. It is highly important and necessary that they stop locking women into a stereotypical gender role.