Orwell and Swift represent satirical scientific writers at opposing ends of ideology and a historical era. Swifts’ Tory anarchism and Orwell’s socialist beliefs would lead the audience to expect two very different views on progress. However, both choose to parody and satire progress to create fear and debate in the public domain. By examining the historical contexts in the themes of progress, anti-enlightenment and technology, it can be seen that the misuse of progress is feared in the time of Orwell and Swift.
Orwell dystopian earth is a state of equilibrium. The war of maintaining the status quo between the superpowers and between the layers of the party ensures that there is no progress in Airstrip one. This creates a war-torn ‘Airstrip one’, which parodies the reality of Post World War Two London:
The experience described in the first paragraph of not being able to close the door quickly enough ‘to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him’ was a familiar experience: the dust from the bombsites. […] ‘victory mansions’ was familiar, and what a victory it seemed: food shortages and rationing had actually increased after the war.
This suggests that Orwell parodied post war life to show that without the ongoing war to distract people, progress would need to be made to increase the welfare of the population. This can be contrasted with Gulliver’s attempts to educate the king of Brobdingnag in warfare. Gulliver reports that the king is ‘struck with horror’ as he describes the abilities of a cannon. ‘He was amazed how […] I […] could entertain such inhuman ideas, and in a manner so familiar as to appear wholly unmoved at all by the scenes of blood and destruction’ . This could suggest that European culture was becoming too accustomed to violence of war and no longer concerned about military technological progress as long as winning was ensured. The kings Is only concerned with improving the lives of his subjects and not in conquering foreign territory. ‘ whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country.’ This juxtaposes the decaying ‘airstrip one’ and implies that real progress can be made if war could be eliminated. The satire of swift can be taken as an attack on the Whigs foreign policy of war with France, which the Tories saw as pointless and with little benefit. Thus it can be seen that both Orwell and Swift illustrate the war is counter-productive to progress as it distracts from improving the lives of the common person.
Moreover, it could be argued that the lack of progress has allowed regression to become a theme in both novels. The Party’s desire to maintain a status quo in living standards is a failure as the cities begin to decay. Orwell writes:
The reality was decaying, dingy cities where underfed people shuffled to and fro in leaky shoes, in patched up...