Posts Tagged ‘Politician’

Rat Race (and I’m not talking about the 2001 comedy)

February 2, 2010

The first Air in John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera describes a world where the path to success in all tenets of life are riddled with those who would abuse their friends and family to become successful. This theme becomes evident in the first two lines of the air. “Through all the employments of life Each neighbor abuses his brother;” (2614). While the Air exists within the play in the play, I believe that the Airs serve as a direct mouthpiece for Gay to insert his social commentary outside of the immediate context of the play surrounding them.

John Gay’s criticism for business and the “rat race” becomes even less subtle when he writes “All professions be-rogue one another” (2614). Here Gay writes that regardless of profession, there will always be cut-throat competition and good people will fall into the depths of poverty because of it. This sets the stage for play, and the play within the play. The beggar will had to be cut throat and ruthless to get his play read and performed.

The last line completes the critique of business when Gay describes “And the statesman, because he’s so great Thinks his trade as honest as mine” (2614). It is here that Gay admits that he is not immunes to competitive and cunning business practices, but he shows his contempt for politicians who claim  that they are innocent from the dirt  that is competition. Gay laughs at the assertion and reiterates that they are as honest as he his, which given the context makes Gay not very honest.


Defoe as a Politician

January 10, 2010

Throughout Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe expresses his political views through satire. In eighteenth century London, transportation was a relatively new process and Defoe used Moll Flanders as an opportunity to advertise it. Defoe advocates transportation, stating that it gives convicts a fresh start while also keeping future generations from becoming corrupt, like Moll Flanders did. His support of transportation is demonstrated when Moll is talking to her mother and she says “many a Newgate bird becomes a great man…” (71).

In his life, Defoe was a Renaissance man; he was involved in politics, economics, religion, and most notably a writer. He was imprisoned from 1692-1703; thus, he was familiar with London’s legal system. He was aware that many people, once imprisoned, were unable to integrate themselves back into society, and he felt that there needed to be an alternate solution. This solution came with the Transportation Act of 1718, which stated that prisoners were allowed to get a fresh start in North America, if they could pay there way there. Defoe was familiar with this process as he had previously transported felons to North America in 1688.

Many felons, once released, opted to be executed rather than being transported, or simply couldn’t afford to be transported. Throughout Moll Flanders, Defoe advertises transportation by stating that “the best men in this country are burnt in the hand…” (71). He is trying to tell the audience that they have a better chance of success in North America than they do in London. Moll’s mother was transported after she was convicted and she is one of the success stories that Defoe uses as evidence.

Defoe also demonstrates the advantages of transportation by satirizing Moll’s conquest for money. Moll believes that had she not been left a “poor desolate girl” (10), then she would be a gentlewoman, and not have to marry for money. Instead, she marries and remarries multiple times. The most important thing in every marriage was the fortune of the man she was with. She can’t support herself because she never had a chance since her birth; thus, she has to find a man that can support her. The only man that is able to support her is the man she goes to Virginia with. The only reason she didn’t stay with him was because the man was her brother. It is no coincidence that the only man that is able to support her lives in North America. Defoe satirizes her conquest for money in order to strengthen his argument that people will succeed in North America.

Although Defoe was known for his entertaining writing, Moll Flanders contains obvious political messages from Defoe. In the preface, Defoe stated that this is “a work from every part of which something may be learned” (5). Defoe stated his believes about what the country should do with its felons, and he believed that transportation was the correct solution. Defoe displays his political background when he uses satire to communicate his beliefs about transportation throughout Moll Flanders.