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Gulliver’s Travels

Gulliver’s Travels

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Gulliver’s Travels

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  1. Gulliver’s Travels

  2. Satire • the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

  3. Background • In 1726, Jonathan Swift published a book for English readers. On the surface, this book appears to be a travel log, made to chronicle the adventures of a man, Lemuel Gulliver, on the four most incredible voyages imaginable. Primarily, however, Gulliver's Travels is a work of satire. In each land that Gulliver visits, there is a different ironic comparison to English/European politics and philosophy.

  4. Lilliput • Irony is present from the start in the simultaneous recreation of Gulliver as giant and prisoner. The small (but extremely immoral) Lilliputians represent the Whig party of England, whose actions Swift despised. The small size of the Lilliputians is in inverse proportion to the amount of their corruption. For Swift, Lilliput is analogous to England, and Blefuscu to France. With this event of the story Swift satirizes the needless bickering and fighting between the two nations.

  5. Brobdingnagian • Similarly, the Brobdingnagians find Gulliver’s culture to be too violent for the size of its people, and Gulliver’s pride in describing the English is offset by his puniness. Swift characterizes the giants of Book II to be imperfect but extremely moral, possibly the ideal for how a society could be in Swift’s (or our) time.

  6. Laputa • In Book III, Swift satirizes the philosophical movements of rational thought that were popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. The overkill of geometry and other systems being used by the Laputans (to everyone’s disadvantage) ridicules the idea of overthinking something. The Laputans deal in the conceptual rather than in the sensible, resulting in ludicrous theories and ideas. Reason and science was another subject that endured much of Swift’s satire. One example is of the Luputains and how they were always thinking about science. They devoted all theirtime to think about science. Swift used this to satirize how he thought England was to wrapped up about science and less concerned about other important things.

  7. Houyhnhnm • The Houyhnhnms of Book IV likewise prize the rational, but instead of satirizing them as idiots, Swift shows them to be simply cold. The horses’ single-minded rationality deprives them of access to love, art, and other impracticalities that help to offset the heartless aspects of Swift’s (and our) culture. Indeed, Gulliver finds that the only difference between himself and the Yahoo to be the Yahoo's lack of cleanliness and clothes; otherwise, a Yahoo would be indistinguishably human. With this line, Swift's satire achieves its goal, and shows that the flaws of humanity are overwhelming, and let to continue, result in a total degradation of the human.