An Analysis of "A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed"

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Date Submitted: 04/06/2011 10:12 PM

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“A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed”, written by Jonathan Swift, is a satirical poem describing the disturbing, albeit habitual experiences of a seductress working in the eighteenth-century Britain sex industry. As indicated by the title, this short narrative devotes a large amount of its detail to the description of the process through which Corinna must go on a nightly basis before she sleeps. Although Swift claims to have written this poem “for the honour of the fair sex”, it is obviously a critique. However, the author does not only provide critical commentary on women; in fact, he may have been using Corinna as a means of criticizing men and the state of Britain as well.

At the onset, it may seems as though Swift’ss statements in this poem are aimed entirely at Corinna, or at the very least, women who implore their bodies for financial compensation. However, many of the author’s comments can be generalized to women in that society as a whole. Corinna’s location over the course of the narrative is important. Interestingly, the nymph in Swift’s poem is “going to bed”. This raises the question, why not elsewhere? Why not going to work, or going to the water? Swift may specifically have chosen the term “bed” as a representation of a permanent residence. Taken a step further, assuming that most beds are located in homes, the term “bed”, found in the poem’s title as well as on page 533 in line 33 of the Oxford edition of Swift’s Major Works, can be taken as a representation of not only the domestic sphere, but with the inclusion of Corinna, can be seen as an allegory for women’s place in the domestic sphere. In eighteenth-century Britain, women were largely restricted to the household work. Unfortunately, housework was not taken into account, nor did it provide women with any readily identifiable forms of compensation.

As previously stated, Swift dedicates much of the poem to the description of Corinna. Still, his skillful yet...