The tale of the barrel
“The Tale of the Barrel” is one of the first pamphlets written by Jonathan Swift, however, unlike the “Battle of Books” that was created around the same period, where it was mainly about subjects of literary character, “Tale of the Barrel”, with its relatively small volume, it contains, as it seems, practically all conceivable aspects and manifestations of human life. Although, of course, its main focus is anti-religious, or rather anti-church. It’s not for nothing that the book, published seven years after its creation (and published anonymously!), Was included by the Pope in the Index prohibitorum. Swift, however, and from the servants of the Anglican church (and deservedly, I must admit, they did not spare his caustic pen also).
Retelling the “plot” of the book, belonging to the pamphlet genre, is obviously ungrateful and meaningless. It is noteworthy, however, that in the
absence of a “plot” in the usual sense of the word, in the absence of action, heroes, intrigue, Swift’s book is read as an exciting detective novel or as an entertaining adventure narrative. And it happens because and because it belongs formally to the genre of journalism, as they say today, non-fiction – that is, again formally, going beyond the literature of art, the Swift pamphlet is in the full sense an artistic work. And let it not happen inherent in the artistic work of events – it has a single, all other replacing: the movement of author’s thoughts – angry, paradoxical, sarcastic,
The construction of a pamphlet at first glance may seem rather chaotic, confusing, the author deliberately mislead its reader (hence the name itself: the expression “barrel tale” in English means – chatter, mishmash, confusion). The structure of the pamphlet breaks up into two apparently unrelated parts: the “Tale of the Barrel” – the story of three brothers: Peter, Jack and Martin – and a series of digressions, each of which has its own theme and
its addressee. Thus, one of them is called “retreat concerning critics”, the other is “retreat into praise of retreats”, another one is “a digression about the origin, usefulness and success of insanity in human society”, etc. Already from the very names of “retreats” their meaning and orientation are clear. Swift in general were disgusting of all kinds of meanness and depravity of human nature, duplicity, insincerity, but above all – human stupidity and human vanity. And it is against them that his evil, sarcastic, caustic language is directed. He knows how to notice everything and give everything according to merit.
So, in the first section, called “Introduction”, the addressees of his sarcasm become judges and orators, actors and spectators, in short, all those who either utter something (from the podium or, if you will, from the barrel), and also Others, listening to them, opening their mouths with admiration. In many sections of his pamphlet, Swift creates a murderous parody of modern science, pseudo-learning (when verily “a word in simplicity will not be said”), while masterfully owning the gift of perverted verbiage (of course, parodic, but perfectly reproducing the style of those numerous ” scientific treatises “, which in abundance came from the pen of the learned men – his contemporaries). Brilliantly at the same time he knows how to show that behind this stringing of words are hidden the emptiness and poverty of thought – a motif that is modern at all times, like all the other thoughts and motifs of the Swift pamphlet, which has by no means become the four centuries that separate us from the moment of creation, into a “museum exhibit”. No, Swift’s pamphlet is alive – because all the human weaknesses and vices against which he is directed are alive.
It is noteworthy that the pamphlet, published anonymously, was written on behalf of the supposedly equally shamelessly illiterate scholar-redneca, which Swift despised, but his voice, his own voice, is quite perceptible through this mask, moreover, the opportunity to hide behind it gives a pamphlet even more sharpness and spice. This duality-two-facedness, the reception of “flip-flops” in general is very inherent in the author’s manner of Swift-pamphleteer, in it the unusual paradoxicalness of his mind, with all the jaundice, anger, causticity and sarcasm, is especially acute. This is a rebuke to the writers-the “sixpence” writers, one-day writers who write frankly “for sale,” claiming the title and position of the chroniclers of their time, but who are in fact merely the creators of countless self-portraits. It is about these ” saves of the nation “and carriers of the highest truth, Swift writes:” In different meetings where these speakers speak, nature itself taught the listeners to stand with their mouths open and directed parallel to the horizon, so that they intersect with a perpendicular line dropped from the zenith to the center of the earth. In such a situation, listeners, if they are standing in a thick crowd, each takes home some share, and nothing or almost nothing disappears. “
But, of course, the main addressee of the satire of Swift is the church, whose history he presents in an allegorically allegorical form in the main narrative, which is a pamphlet and is actually called the “Tale of the Barrel.” He describes the history of the division of the Christian church into Catholic, Anglican and Protestant as the story of three brothers: Peter (Catholics), Jack (Calvinists and other extreme currents) and Martin (Lutheranism, Anglican Church) whose father, dying, left them a will. Under the “testament” Swift means the New Testament – from here to the end of the pamphlet begins its incomparable and unprecedented blasphemy. “Delezhka”, which occurs between “brothers”, is completely devoid of “divine halo,” it is quite primitive and boils down to the division of spheres of influence, speaking in modern language, and also – and this is the main thing – to finding out which of the “brothers” (that is, the three main trends that have emerged within the Christian faith) is a true follower of the “father” that is closer to the foundations and foundations of the Christian religion. “Overwhelming” the left “testament” is described by Swift in a figurative and is reduced to purely practical questions (which also undoubtedly intentionally leads to understating of such high spiritual problems). The object of the dispute, the apple of discord becomes… the caftan. The deviations of Peter (that is, the Catholic Church) from the foundations of the Christian dogma are reduced to the insubstantial adornment of the “caftan” by all sorts of galloons, aglibbons and other tinsel – a very transparent hint at the splendor of the Catholic ritual and rituals. At the same time, Peter at some point deprives the brothers of the opportunity to see the will, he hides it from them, becoming (or rather, proclaiming himself) the only true heir. But Swift’s “crocheted motif” does not happen by chance: “Is not religion a cloak, honesty is not a pair of boots worn in mud, self-esteem is not a frock coat, vanity is not a shirt and conscience, not a pair of pants that, though they cover lust and shame, to the services of the one and the other? “
Clothing – as the embodiment of the essence of man, not only his class and professional affiliation, but also his vanity, stupidity, complacency, hypocrisy, aspiration for hypocrisy – and here the attendants of the church – and actors, government officials – and visitors to brothels are closing in for Swift. In the words of Swift as if Russian folk wisdom comes to life: “by the clothes they meet…” – so, in his opinion, “dressing” plays an important role, which determines much, if not all, of the one who wears it.
Completely “defrocked” with Peter (that is, I repeat, with the Catholic Church), Swift takes over Jack (under which John Calvin is taken). Unlike Peter, who adorned the “caftan” with a multitude of all sorts of tinsel, Jack decided to completely deprive the “caftan” of all this external gilding so as to maximally distance himself from his older brother – one misfortune: the decorations were so intertwined with the cloth (that is, with the base) that, severely tearing them away from meat, he turned the “caftan” into solid holes: thus, the extremism and fanaticism of Brother Jack (that is, Calvin and his ilk) differed little from the fanaticism of the followers of Peter (that is, the Papist Catholics): “… it ruined all his plans to isolate himself from Peter and so intensified ro governmental traits brothers, that even the disciples and followers they are often mixed… “
Having finally obtained the text of the “will”, Jack turned him into a permanent “guide to action”, not taking a step until he checked with the “canonical text”: “Enthusiastic, he decided to use the will both in the most important and the most insignificant circumstances of life. ” And even being in someone else’s house, he needed to “remember the exact text of the will to ask the way to the courier…”. Is it necessary to add anything else to characterize Swift blasphemy, next to which the anti-religious statements of Voltaire and other famous freethinkers seem just holy stories of kind grandfathers?!
Swift’s virtuosity is in his endless mimicry: the pamphlet is not only a terrific accusatory document, but it is also a brilliant literary game, where the polyphonic narrator combined with numerous and multi-layered hoaxes creates an amazing fusion. In the text there are many names, names, specific people, events and stories, in connection with and about which one or another part was written. However, in order to fully appreciate this unquestionable literary masterpiece, it is not necessary to delve into all these subtleties and details. The specifics were gone, taking them to oblivion, along with their treaties and other literature and other researches that had sunk into Aetu, and the book of Swift remained – for it is by no means just a pamphlet written “for the evil of the day, but truly an encyclopaedia of morals. At the same time, unlike the long and voluminous novels of contemporaries of Swift – writers of the Enlightenment, absolutely devoid of the element of edification (and this is with absolutely clear in it the read author’s position, his views on all the problems that he touches). The ease of genius is one of the most important sensations that Swift’s book produces – a pamphlet “for all time.”