History in Shuttlecock

Barry J. Fishman '89

History and the importance of teaching history is a prominent theme in many of Swift's works. In Shuttlecock it is of only tangential importance. History is an important part of Swift's theories on "knowing," because a good deal of history is based on knowledge and perception. Personal histories are the most important kind of history in Shuttlecock. For Prentis, "Shuttlecock: The Story of a Secret Agent" is a vital link to his own past and the only key to his father's past.

History is an important backdrop for Prentis's exploration of his father's heroism. Without the challenge of World War II the old man would never have written his novel and the central conflict of Shuttlecock would not have taken place. How does the heroism of Prentis's father compare to the actions of Harry Beech's father in Out of This World? Are the similarities related to thematic structure? Are the differences dependent upon social class?

Swift does take a humorous pot-shot at history, especially funny when juxtaposed with the discussions between Tom Crick and Price in Waterland. "Once [Marian & I] took the boys to look round the inside of the [historic] house; they were bored, and afterwards I lectured them on the importance of a sense of history (you see, I am not only cowardly, but pompous too)" (64).

Postcolonial Web United Kingdom OV Swift OV Shuttlecock