Why neoclassical age is called an Age of Prose and Reason?
Discuss with reference to Defoe and Swift.
According to Matthew Arnold 18th century (Neoclassical age) is the ‘glorious age of prose and reason’. This century records the triumph of English prose. There have been various kinds of prose to deal with the discoveries of the age. As a result, people developed a scientific and philosophic attitude towards life and literature. Because of this scientific revolution, people are becoming more reasonable. The 18th century was an age of prose and scholarly thought. The literature was based on logic and argument. Hence, it has been called the age of prose and reason.
Social and political conduct of the age also reflected the need for reason. Intolerance, political rivalry, religious antagonism, social quarrel, etc. are found in the works of the prose writers. The development of prose was manifested in the literary works of the following authors in particular, apart from various kinds of journals, criticism, letters, philosophical writings, and biography which also manifested the development of English (18th century) prose. The remarkable prose writers of the 18th century are Jonathan Swift, Daniel Defoe, Joseph Addison, and Richard Steele, Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, James Boswell, and so on.
Now we will discuss the neoclassical age as the age of prose and reason concerning Defoe and Swift.
Jonathan Swift Jonathan Swift was a great Irish writer. He is one of the greatest satirists of the 18th century. He is called the father of satire in prose. As a satirist he earned popularity. He has a great contribution to neoclassical prose. His famous prose works are The Battle of Books, A Tale of a Tub, Gulliver’s Travels, etc.
His first prose work is The Battle of Books. A Tale of a Tub is one of the fiercest satires in the English language. It is a savage attack on the churches. Its style has a sustained vigor, peace and colorfulness. Gulliver’s Travels is the most popular prose works of Swift. It is a bitter satire. In this book, he satirizes politics, religion, Science, woman, and the human race. His prose is simple, vigorous, and straightforward.
Daniel Defoe is another great prose writer in the neoclassical age. He wrote several periodical essays and religious works. His famous prose works are Robinson Crusoe, Captain Singleton, Colonel Jack, Roxana, etc.
His excellent adventurous tale is Robinson Crusoe. It is an English classic for all times. He gives life and reality to his fiction.
It was an age of reason, an age of understanding, and thinking. Most of the great prose works of the age are inspired by logic, reasoning, and arguments.
To conclude, the 18th century or the Neoclassical Age was an age of prose and reason or age of great authors of English prose. But the authors were individual in their method and style. The 18th century developed a distinct satirical prose style to teach and delight the readers. So the 18th century is rightly called the age of Prose and Reason.