Existentialism and Adultery in "Hoffmeier's Antelope"

Barry J. Fishman '89

A philosophical argument that reappears frequently in Swift's writing forms another important part of "Hoffmeier's Antelope." The argument goes like this:

If a species exists, yet it is unknown -- isn't that the same as if it did not exist? ...and therefore, if a thing which was known to exist ceases to exist, then doesn't it occupy the same status as something which exists but is not known to exist? (p.34-5)

Swift's characters make the same type of argument when talking about extra-marital affairs. What also seems to be at issue is a notion of history. If we don't know our history (lineage), does it exist for us at all? This is discussed at great length in Waterland and Out of This World. Another characteristic of Swift's writing is the way he brings the reader out of the occasional "deep" discussion -- with a concrete and minute detail. The exchange between Uncle and narrator ends with the uncle raising a glass of "frothy stout" to his lips while the narrator delivers a parenthetical reference, "(Guinness was my uncle's one indulgence)" (p.35).

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