Jonathan Swift, argues Reilly, is a writer of crucial significance to the human beings of this century, a man who simultaneously looks "back to the crises of the seventeenth century and forward, with uncanny prescience, to the problems of the twentieth."
Reilly presents Swift as a "dauntingly modern writer of the fiercest urgency, not merely relevant but indispensable to an understanding of our present predicament." His approach is organic, "with the initial definition of Swift's religious-political position leading naturally to an examination of the satire against corresponding Puritan aberrations in Chapter Three. Similarly, the dislike of Puritan messianism shapes Swift's pessimistic view of history revealed in Chapter Four and makes fully intelligible those crucially contentious creatures, the Houyhnhnms. Chapter Five deals with his abortive attempt to found a viable social order on the 'realistic' appraisal of man he shared with Hobbes. Chapters Six and Seven, using Gulliver's Travels as chief exhibit, concentrate on the major themes of forbidden knowledge and displacement, Swift's sense of alienation in a fearful world. Chapter Eight attempts to synthesize the individual findings of each preceding chapter in examining the central paradoxes of his faith, his attitude to language in general and to satire in particular, and his intolerable divided consciousness."