Carly of the day” as the editor

Carly Koenig

Professor Geoffrey Emerson

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English 215-004

10 November 2017


The Lady’s Dressing


            Known as a
satirist, the Irish author Jonathan Swift was born on November 30, 1667. Swift
was born with and suffered from Meniere’s
Disease. His father died two months before he
was born and since his mother could not provide Swift was raised by his uncle.
Swift received the best education in Ireland and at the age of 14 began his
undergraduate studies at Trinity College in Dublin (Jonathan
When Swift moved from Ireland to England his mother found him a
secretary position under an English statesman, Sir William Temple. While
working for Temple, Swift was influenced to begin writing. When Temple died,
Swift found a job outside of Dublin and here he released his first political
pamphlet. Swift’s writings earned him a reputation and welcomed by the Tories,
Swift became “the most brilliant political journalist of the day” as the editor
of the Examiner (The Norton Anthology of English
Here he wrote letters to his lifelong love, Ester, which he later published as The Journal to Stella. When Swift returned
to Ireland he began leading a congregation and there he wrote what is now his
best work. “He has been called a misanthrope, a hater of humanity, and Gulliver’s Travels has been considered
an expression of savage misanthropy” (The Norton Anthology of English Literature). Swift is known for
taking a hard look at the facts of the body and life itself. The Lady’s Dressing Room was published
in 1732. Swift suffered from a stroke in 1742 and died three years later.

beginning stanza begins with the reader meeting the beautiful Celia, after
taking five hours to get ready in her dressing room. Strephon, her lover, finds
the room to be empty and sneaks in to take a look around the mysterious room. What
Strephon finds next changes everything. What Strephon then sees in each stanza
make Celia appear more and more nauseating. Strephon sees a dirty smock with
sweat stains and covered in filth. He even swears that any man to call Celia
clean is lying. The horror continues as Strephon discovers combs filled with
dandruff, cosmetics from Celia’s dead dog, and “beslimed” towels that turned
Strephon’s bowls (The Norton).
At the center of Celia’s dressing room Strephon finds that she does in fact
“shit” (The Norton).
Swift then alludes to Pandora’s Box to express Celia’s dressing room and Celia
herself as horrid. He says that Strephon venturing into Cilia’s room was the
lifting of the lid which released the secret monstrosities. The goddess that
never sleeps, Vengeance, then punishes Strephon for snooping. His punishment be
that he will see the truth of every woman, no longer with he be tricked by the
“charms of womankind” (The Norton).
Finally, Swift ends by saying Strephon would soon learn to think like him and
realize that women are lying, disgusting creatures who cover up their true


            This satire
by Jonathan Swift is specifically targeting the female sex. The Lady’s Dressing Room takes the
private affairs of Celia, representing womankind, and shoves them into the
light of the public. Strephon invading Celia’s dressing room is a perfect model
for illustrating the connection between public and private life and the role of
each in Swift’s society. This poem takes the woman’s dressing room, an object
of femininity, and uses it to introduce a nauseating perception of the female
sex. Swift loved individuals, but hated “that animal called man,” meaning
humankind in general. Although the focus of the poem is based on misogyny, the
idea that lies beyond the lines is more extensive than Swift’s opinion of pride
and women. Swift points out the idiocy of society’s pursuit to mask what cannot
be concealed; the basic nature of humanity no matter the advancements.


            A reference
to the divine is how this poem begins. Celia is referred to as “the goddess” (The Norton). Using the imagery
of a goddess, this alludes to the traditional idea that feminine beauty is
divine. By comparing illustrations of human excrement with the divine, Swift urges
against the habit to idealize humanity. The tone of the poem turns scientific
when Strephon enters and discovers Celia’s secrets, “an inventory follows here”
(The Norton).
Strephon is on a mission to discover what truly occurs in Celia’s dressing
room. What he discovers drastically changes how Strephon perceives women. Through
seeing Celia’s filth and cosmetics the true essence of humanity is revealed by
showing the eccentric means by which the truth is veiled. “The virtues we must
not let pass, of Celia’s magnifying glass. When frightened Strephon cast his
eye on’t, it showed the visage of a giant.” (The Norton).
This line acquaints the reader with Celia’s mirror as a scientific tool and not
just an object of reflection. Magnifying glass is used to enlarge an image and
reveal the truth which we cannot see. Strephon is surprised to see himself as a
giant in the reflection. Strephon has molded from a curious man into a man
subject to the hideousness of womankind. The transformation of Celia from the
divine beauty to a horror represents unveiling the true animalistic nature of
humankind. “As from within Pandora’s box, when Epimetheus oped the locks, a sudden
universal crew of human evils upward flew” (The Norton).
By alluding Celia to Pandora and Strephon to Epimetheus, Swift is not
discouraging exploration but simply cautioning that discoveries should be taken
for what they are and not romanticized.


satire unfairly focuses on womankind and holds a misogynistic tone. However,
there is more than meets the eye. Swift attempts to portray life how it really
is, without the curtain of deception. Instead of divine beauty, Strephon finds
feces in Celia’s dressing room. Under a magnifying glass, humanity should be
able to see the truth; the animal nature that lies at the base. Swift displays
to his readers that the truth can be perilous if not revealed. Not everything
can be placed perfectly in the history of humankind. The Lady’s Dressing Room satirizes the attempt of society to
conceal the basic nature that is found in every person. Regardless of their
made-up divinity.