The Idea of Progress

Jeannie Yang '96 English 32 1992

Why has the spread of merriment been transformed into the Idea of Progress? And why has land reclamation in the eastern Fens become confused with the Empire of Great Britain? Because to fix the zenith is to fix the point at which decline begins. . . Because there must always bečdo not deny that there must always beča future.

. . . Which way do we go? Forwards to go backwards? Backwards to go forwards? What is Progress? (80-81)

In this passage Swift presents the irony behind "that noble and impersonal Idea of Progress" Essentially, man has used the vague term of Progress in order to lend weight to the belief that the world continuously improves over time. Man is compelled to build empires and put on a show, because "there must always be--. . . there must always be--a future." Unfortunately man's efforts in the name of Progress, again and again, put the world in danger (for example, world wars and atomic bombs). Thus the irony lies in the fact that although Progress was a term born out of man's hope for the future, Progress has actually created a means towards the end of any future for man.


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