Swift Essay Research Paper A comparison of

Swift Essay, Research Paper

A comparison of the major changes in American enterprise

indicated in the writings of

Jonathan Swift (pre-20th Century) and Herman Melville (20th Century).


The authors of the selected works, Jonathan Swift’s essay "A Modest

Proposal" and Herman Melville’s "Case: Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story

of Wall Street", the reader can imagine the poor working conditions in the

early time of our industrial growth. In Swift’s proposal it was apparent that

the poverty of Ireland was of major concern during the 1700’s. Swift, in his

satire reflects on the class distinctions of the very wealthy and the extremely

poor. In Herman Melville’s essay it is apparent that life on Wall Street,

although the character Bartleby was apparently bankrupt in more than financial

ways, business life has considerably change for that time era to the typical

businesses of our modern time.

Assessment of Jonathan Swift’s essay, "A Modest Proposal"

Jonathan Swift was a satirist writer and at first when reading this proposal,

the reader is appalled by the perverse and cruel idea that he was proposing. The

reader would have to know that this was a satire to understand that he has taken

the proposal to an extreme. Swift was considered to be an intellectual and

philosopher and attempts to enlighten the reader of the problem of the poor and

desolate of Ireland. Swift criticizes the false values of society of that time

by exaggerating his possible solution of the problem in his perverse proposal.

The criticism of the rich was the suggestion that they would enjoy the delicacy

of eating yearling children as food. He infers the extremely wealthy would

rather eat the problem than solve the problem by coming up with another feasible

and acceptable solution. Swift brings to light the fact that the poor was

society’s problem and not the unfortunate state, an accident of being born to

the wrong side of humanity, or the unfit for life people in Ireland. His satire

makes you wonder how ignored by the wealthy and people of status were this

problem. He sees the wealthy as the consumers of life and resources and their

prosperity makes them responsible to find ways to help this social problem. The

suggestion that the wealthy would raise, market and eat human kind was an insult

and enlightenment to the wealthy. I believe his intent was to bring awareness of

the lack of the prosperous to address this problem. The sad part is that there

were probably many who actually thought it would be a good way to alleviate the


Assessment of Herman Melville’s essay,

"Case: Bartleby the Scrivener: A story of Wall Street"

Melville’s essay "Bartleby the Scrivener" dramatizes the mechanical

and inhumanity of the business world was. Symbolism to convey the feeling of the

mechanization and demoralizing atmosphere of big business was used. Bartleby was

like a robot and although he was doing his work at first lacked any social

graces. He does his work like a machine, pushing on until it was turned off. The

employer was perplexed in how to deal with this person. His compassion or his

inability to lead allows Bartleby to rebel against authority. Bartleby becomes a

mindless shell and demonstrates mental illness either cause by his life

situation or the business. Bartleby stares at a brick wall outside the window

for long periods of time and again while in prison. The walls represent big

business and paint a dull, dark, dreary, lifeless, cold and incapable to

feeling. Bartleby seems helpless to change his plight in business. His other

job, we learn was dealing with dead letters suggest that Bartleby was dead

inside already. There was no mention of family or friends, just the job. The

frequent use of the word "prefer" becomes a joke to co-workers. Most

people would prefer not to do things requested in business but do them anyway.

Bartleby completely shuts down mentally, eventually physically and dies. Did big

business kill him or was it suicide cause by a deeper mental problem? That is up

to the reader to decide.


Historically, Swift’s essay shows how the culture in Ireland was of the

"have and have not". Prosperity in the 1700’s in Ireland was of

extreme wealth or extreme poverty. The wealthy were people of means and likely

to be the businessman and socialites of Ireland. Business was not available to

the poor. Jobs were not plentiful and wages, if you had a job was meager. Those

who could not support themselves resorted to begging, stealing and other

dishonest means of survival. The wealthy regarded them with disgust and wish

them away rather than deal with this social problem. Swift’s essay brings to

light the inhumanity of regarding the poor as less than human, a common faulty

social value of that era.

Melville’s essay was about American business in the early 1800’s. The

American office was depicted as a not so harmonious place to work. Business as

told by the author was good for him. He was not one to make waves or confront

challenges but rather to just make a living as a lawyer. He was accepting of his

workers and their limits and was more than lacks in dealing with them. The

author demonstrates that the big business of Wall Street was not always to be

envied. Industry has its drawbacks and in the 1900’s, long hours, meager pay and

poor office space was a factor in the discontentment of many workers. The

employer shared his office, which is not done today, by a screen divider with an

employee. The employer would rather accept the problems in his office staff

rather than take control. Instead of taking control of the situation, he moves

his office to escape the problem, but the reader learns the problem followed

him. The characters are used to convey the robotic and discontentment of the

workplace. The character Nipper was discontented with his work area. He was not

comfortable and struggles with back pain and numb hands. Turkey, another

character sounds to be a drinking man and after lunch was red faced and has

difficulty performing his job. This was another problem that was not addressed

by the employer. The main character, Bartleby, demonstrates to the reader the

dehumanizing effects office life in the early stages of American business can

cause. Poor productivity and resistance to work was a major cause of these



From these writing it is easy to see that industry and the workplace has

change dramatically from the 17 – 1800’s to today’s businesses. In these works

of Melville and Swift we can easily see that the workplace and work

relationships was barbaric in comparison to today’s American industrial business

style. In today’s modern industrial age we see such changes as time-share,

ergonomics, wages, advancements, time off and acceptable work hours. Other

advancements have been in supplemented health care, stock options, performance

rewards, and investment plans such as the 401K for retirement. Spending accounts

and childcare facilities on premises are other offers of choice by some

employers. Some companies have on site health facilities and exercise rooms.

As for the industry itself, we have government laws to eliminate

establishments from controlling the market or unsavory financial practices.

Granted we still have such companies using unfair labor practices, such as the

"sweat shop" and illegal immigrant employment, but the industry has

improved and labor practices have improved. In America we still have a problem

with the poor and homeless. Charitable people both wealthy and poor try to help

those less fortunate. Soup kitchens, shelters and people give of their time and

energy to address the social problem of the poor and homeless. Instead of

wishing they would disappear, there is genuine caring and working to find a

solution. Free medical, childcare and educations is the main focus of our

government to address the population of the homeless, abused and mentally

incompetent people of America. More people get involved yearly in these

endeavors. Our rich and famous people donate time and money to good causes.

America still has some unsavory people who deal in what we call slavery and

the selling of offspring. We have what is referred to as the black market and

racketeering practices, which are hidden from the masses, but these are still

problems to be addressed.


Melville, Herman. (1853). "Case: Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall

Street". Perspectives on Literature and Work. The McGraw-Hill Companies,


Swift, Jonathan. (1729). "A Modest Proposal". Perspectives on

Literature and Work. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


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