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Satire can be used in many different forms for writers to express themselves. Satire is used by writers in all types of literature to communicate with their readers. More importantly satire allows writers to send their readers messages in a very indirect way. This means writers can express themselves without being prosecuted. This makes satire an incredibly powerful tool because it allows writers to expose corruption, oppression, and lies that many people end up believing.
Gulliver first goes to the island of Lilliput where he is shipwrecked and wakes up tied down to the ground. He’s been tied down by the tiny natives called Lilliputians. The Lilliputians are an extremely petty people which would put people to death for fraud or ingratitude. They are also an extremely corrupt society, for example they use rope dancing as a way to get and hold public office. With Lilliputians, Gulliver has to watch his back and take into consideration that they may be plotting against them. The Lilliputians pettiness can clearly be seen in their argument over the correct end of an egg to break with Big-Endians who actually protest to the death against the emperor’s order that all shall break the egg at its small end. The Lilliputians are also at war with the Blefuscudians and the emperor tells Gulliver to intervene in order to end the war. He does, but the emperor then tells him to destroy all their ships so that they can enslave the Blefuscudians. Gulliver refuses and his luck with the Lilliputians starts taking a turn for the worst.
A fire breaks out one night and Gulliver puts it out by peeing on it. This incident combined with rumors that he hit on the emperors wife and that he was a traitor in leagues with the Blefuscudians get the emperor to turn on him. The emperor plans to have Gulliver blinded, however Gulliver finds out and escapes. Eventually Gulliver gets home to have another adventure later on.
These little people represent much more than just some imaginary characters created by Swift. They are actually a representation of the bureaucracy and political polices OF Swifts time. Swift is pointing out how petty and corrupt those in power actually are. Swift uses their size as a metaphor to show how small politicians are morally. He is trying to show how pathetic, greedy, and self-centered their deeds are. By showing how they plot behind closed doors in secret he’s also criticizing the political system which allows politicians to do that and make pacts that are in their best interest instead of the peoples. In addition, he also exposes the coldness of politics, like the coldness of the proposer in “A Modest Proposal.” The emperor had no problem killing and enslaving a city of people. Swift is merely showing that is also happens in real life through satire.
Next Gulliver travels to Brobdingnag where he finds that giants are the natives of this land. Gulliver is found by a farmer and stays with him until the queen of the country buys Gulliver from him and gives Gulliver to the king as a present. Gulliver spends time with the royal family learning their language and their culture. Gulliver also has several incidents while in this country that start giving him a negative attitude of the country.
One day Gulliver tells the king about England’s history, however the king is disgusted with Gulliver’s account of England’s history. According to DeGategno “the enlightened King responds to Gulliver’s description of European hypocrisy, avarice, and hatred, and memorably declares “the bulk of your natives, to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth (DeGategno).” Gulliver doesn’t like the king’s reaction and starts thinking he might be reacting like that because he is less educated than him.
Gulliver tries to repair his image with the king by telling him about gunpowder and how England uses it to solve conflicts and win wars. However, this completely backfires on Gulliver instead of being intrigued the king is disguised with this violence. He says that he is amazed that such an impotent and groveling insect as Gulliver could entertain such inhuman ideas and threatens Gulliver with death if he ever mentions gunpowder again. After this Gulliver doesn’t try to change the kings’ mind about how he feels about England. However, he does start to look down on aspects of the Brobdingnagian society such as their education, laws, books, language, and military. He concludes that their education, law, and society as a whole is inferior to that of England. Eventually Gulliver starts becoming home sick and wishes to be around people that are as smart as he is.
Luckily for him one day a bird picks up the box that he is carried in and drops it in the sea. Though Gulliver almost drowns he does manage to escape and is eventually rescued by some sailors. The sailors take him back home. However, Gulliver doesn’t stay in England for too long in fact in another couple days Gulliver sets sail again and goes on another adventure.
Brobdingnag was the exact opposite of Lilliput. In Lilliput Gulliver is surround by evil, but in Brobdingnag he is evil. This can be seen by the king’s reaction tp Gulliver’s description of European history and how Gulliver’s feelings change during his stay. Gulliver starts looking down on Brobdingnagians in a way that’s almost Lilliputian. It seems that he doesn’t like being criticized and adding that he already feels inferior to Brobdingnagians due to their size differences he starts protecting his esteem; so he strikes back like a Lilliputian. This is yet another way Swift is using satire to communicate with the reader. Swift doesn’t just use the characters that Gulliver meets, but every tool he has available. I believe DeGategno’s word are very relevant to this when he says that Swift “seeks nothing less than his reader’s participation in a thoroughgoing physical, intellectual, political, and moral analysis of mankind’s condition (DeGategno).”
After setting sail, as a surgeon, Gulliver’s ship is captured by pirates, however they let Gulliver go in a small canoe and eventually he ends up in Laputa, which is actually an island that floats in the sky. Laputa is very different from Brobdingnag and Lilliput in that there are many different types of people. Brobdingnag had giants and Lilliput had tiny people and each had their own lesson, yet Laputa is filled with different types of people and has several different lessons. I can’t help but believe that Swift named the first city that Gulliver travels to Laputa as a way to describe the events that were to come. I say this because in Spanish Laputa actually means the bitch.
Gulliver sees that the inhabitants of Laputa are a very strange people. Since they are constantly thinking about math and music they actually have servants called Flappers that remind them when to listen and when to talk. They also constantly worry about things like the sun dropping out of the sky. This causes many women in Laputa to commit adultery since most of their husbands are lost in their own thoughts.
Gulliver then travels to Lagado where he meets Lord Munodi who acts as a guide for him. Munodi takes Gulliver to go see the Academy of Lagado where he meets a group of professors that are involved with some extremely ridiculous experiments. Gulliver sees that they’re trying to extract sunbeams from cucumbers, turn human excrement back into its original food, transform ice into gunpowder, and build houses from the roof down. Three professors were developing a strategy for improving the language of their country by eliminating all words except nouns or eliminating all words and having people carry around all the objects they need to express themselves.
Another professor which is responsible for public affairs tries to cure diseases and corruptions of public officials with the same prescriptions used for curing diseases of the body. The same professor also says that citizens should inflict physical pain upon public officials until what they want is granted or absolutely refused. The professor goes on to say that Senators should vote the exact opposite of their opinion since it would be in the public’s best interest. Lastly he says that if political parties can’t come to an agreement they should take a hundred leaders of each party, cut their brains in half, and have all the leaders trade one half with one of their opponents. His rationale for this plan is that when the two half-brains are left to debate the matter between themselves in the same head they’ll eventually reach an agreement. Gulliver actually has a positive reaction to the professor’s proposals and seems to think they may be able to actually work. Though, he may just want to see the politicians killed off. After visiting the academy Gulliver starts wanting get back to England and go back home, so he goes to Maldonada in order to find passage to Luggangg from which he can get to Japan and finally back to England.
He discovers that no ships will set sail to Luggangg for a month, so Gulliver decides to visit an island that’s close by named Glubbdubdrib. The inhabitants of Glubbdubdrib are sorcerers, and their Governor is capable of calling spirits back from the dead. Once he arrives Gulliver decides to ask the Governor to summon ancients who were most renowned for being intellectuals. He first meets Homer and Aristotle and all of their commentators. He discovers that in the underworld, these modern commentators avoid the ancient philosophers because of the shame they feel at having so grossly misrepresented their work. Gulliver also has Descartes and Gassendi brought back to life to explain their principal theories to Aristotle. However, Aristotle isn’t impressed; he dismisses their theories and actually compares them to being like fads in fashion. It seems that as the scholars become more recent the less intellectual they actually are. Gulliver concludes that the world has been misled by historians who give qualities such as bravery, virtue, piety, and honor to those who were only cowards and scoundrels.
Afterwards, Gulliver returns to Maldonada and leaves to Luggnagg. Once Gulliver arrives at Luggnagg he is detained by a custom-house officer because he is a stranger. Gulliver is then transported to Traldragdubb where he visits the King of Luggnagg. When he arrives in the throne room, he has to crawl on his belly and lick the floor as he goes until he comes within four yards of the throne, then he raises himself up on his knees and bangs his forehead on the ground several times. This is how Luggnaggians approach their king. The king is kind to Gulliver and gives him housing, gold, and a pass to Japan. Before Gulliver leaves he hears about a group of people called Struldbrugs who are immortal. Clear, Swift is criticizing social codes imposed by royalty. Gulliver then decides to learn more about these people and pay them a visit.
Gulliver imagined that the Struldbrugs lived a wonderful life where they never grew old, however he could not have been more wrong. The Struldbrugs actual do age, they just don’t die. This turns out to be a nightmare for the Struldbrugs because once they pass the age of eighty they basically live in absolute misery. The Struldbrugs are hated by society and are denied the deaths they so badly want as their bodies and minds continue to age and decay. When Gulliver finally meets some Struldbrugs he is disgusted by them and completely changes his mind about how he felt about immortality. Afterwards, Gulliver returns to Luggnagg and from there goes to Japan. From Japan Gulliver eventually makes his way home to England where he is reunited with his family.
The adventure to Laputa, Lagado, Glubbdubdrib, and Luggnagg has a couple different lessons that Swift is telling the reader. The first one in Laputa, he is criticizing people like Pangloss in “Candide.” In Laputa they rely solely on reasoning to the point that their reasoning is corrupted and has no reason at all. According to Brackett, “Swift satirizes the Royal Academy in a depiction of an academy at nearby Lagado where members attempt absurd acts (Brackett).” I believe that it is also criticizing people’s reliance on technology. I also think this point may be more relevant today that it was during Swifts time. The sorcerers are used to show how backward humanity is becoming. All of the scholars of the ancient were actual intellectuals, however the most recent ones were simply people who got lucky and become famous in history; they didn’t possess any superior intellect. Swift also makes it a point to say that people recorded in recent history many times are not what they seem. Getting recorded in history seems to be more like survival of the fittest than who actually deserves it. Finally, the Struldbrugs are to teach people that immortality is not all that it’s cracked up to be, eventually everyone would get tired of life and would want to rest in peace.
After being home for five months Gulliver embarks on another adventure as a captain of a ship. To no surprise the trip is plagued by tragedies. First his crewmen start dying of distemper and when he hires men to replace them they mutiny against him. The crew then leaves Gulliver on a longboat near a beach. Gulliver lands on the beach and starts exploring the land in hope of finding some people. He finally finds some creatures that he has never seen before. After watching them for a bit Gulliver believes that these are the most disgusting creatures he’s ever seen.
One of the creatures, which are called Yahoos, approaches Gulliver and he hits it away from him. This causes the Yahoo to yell which attracts more Yahoos. They then attack Gulliver by climbing in trees and defecating on him. Then a horse appears and the Yahoos run away in fear. The horse, which is a Houyhnhnm, looks at Gulliver as if studying him and looks disgusted when Gulliver touches him. The horse takes Gulliver to a large building. Gulliver starts calling the horse he meet the master horse because he seems to have authority over the other horses. They then meet up with another horse and the horses take Gulliver to a courtyard where they bring a Yahoo and have it stand next to Gulliver. Gulliver first realizes that the Yahoos are actually humans and he’s completely horrified, then he realizes that the horses are actually comparing him to the Yahoo and is horrified even farther. Gulliver then tries to make a point to distinguish himself from the Yahoos for the Houyhnhnms.
The Houyhnhnms teach Gulliver their language and Gulliver starts trying to convince them that he’s not a Yahoo. Gulliver tells the master horse the story of how he got to the Houyhnhnms, but the master says his story is the thing which was not. The master is implying that he is lying, but since all Houyhnhnms always speak the truth their language does not have a word for lying. The Houyhnhnm master asks Gulliver more questions about his past. Gulliver tells the master that in his world people are the masters and horses are the beast. The master can’t believe what he hears and replies that it isn’t possible for a Yahoo to be master over a Houyhnhnm because they are superior both physical and intellectually
The master tries to understand humanity more through Gulliver and so they have many conversations. In these many conversations Gulliver goes over topics such as poverty, ambition, crime, envy, oppressions, lust, law and politics. He also informs the master of England’s history and the master says that he has a good idea of what human nature is capable of. At one point the master again points out the physical weakness of Yahoos to Gulliver and Gulliver decides to tell him about gun powder. The master is appalled by what Gulliver tells him and orders Gulliver to be silent. The master then says that Yahoos who pretend to have reason are far more detestable than those who do not because it isn’t really reason that they have but something that increases their natural vices.
After Gulliver spends three years with the Houyhnhnms he becomes very attached to them. He believes that they are pure and innocent and starts losing his humanity in exchange to be more Houyhnhnm-like. He makes clothing out of Yahoo skin and whenever he starts missing his family or friends he merely thinks of them as Yahoos. Gulliver has found happiness among the Houyhnhnm, however one day his master tells him that he must leave. With the help of the masters servant Gulliver builds a boat and leaves. Gulliver doesn’t go straight home because he’s actually sick of humanity. He considers all humans Yahoos and wants nothing to do with humanity. Even when he finally gets home his own wife and kids disgust him. The story ends with Gulliver allowing his wife to have dinner with him and him talking about how everyone reminds him of a Yahoo.
Swift is showing the two possibilities in human nature in the last portion of Gulliver’s Travels. One is that humans may choose to embrace their uncivilized animalistic nature, as did the Yahoos, and the other that they might reject all emotion to function only with logic, as did the Houyhnhnms. For example, the Yahoos throw their feces at each other and spend all day on the beach picking up shiny stuff. However, the Houyhnhnms find their behavior disgusting and illogical. The Yahoos throwing feces at each other represents how little respect humans have for each other. Them worshipping shiny stuff represents humanities obsession with objects that aren’t really as valuable as we make them to be.
The Importance of Being Earnest is a very funny play that satirizes social roles and the customs of Oscar Wildes time. The satire is very light hearted because Wilde wrote it for the upper classes he was actually poking fun at. However, when we look at it day we can see how ridiculous many of their customs were and how petty the upper-class could be.
The play starts off with a conversation about marriage between Algernon Moncrieff and his servant Lane. It also sets the tone for the play as Algernon concludes that Lane’s views seem negligent and that Lane’s class seems to have a lack of moral responsibility, here Wilde is using irony because it is in fact Algernons class that lacks moral responsibility. The play becomes satirical very fast as Jack Worthing admits that Earnest is an alter ego he pretends is his brother that often needs his help in the city and Algernon admits that he also has an alter ego named Bunbury, who often needs his help in the country. Wilde is using this to show how ridiculous their customs were and that for someone to get away somewhere and still be respectable in the eyes of society they had to make up another identity.
The first scene also has Jack proposing to Gwendolen which she accepts, but her mom tells her she can’t engage herself. Lady Bracknell then asks Jack some personal questions to see if he is suitable for Gwendolen. All seems fine until she realizes that he doesn’t have parents, at this she finds him unacceptable and leaves. In this scene Wilde is criticizing the social code as petty and cruel.
The irony becomes even more incredible when Algernon goes to Jacks house in the country saying that his name is Earnest and he’s Jacks brother. Algernon introduces himself to Cecily, as Earnest, and very quickly the two fall in love. When Jack gets home and discovers that Algernon is posing as his imaginary brother, Earnest, he is furious and tells him to leave. However, Algernon doesn’t and in fact he meets up with Cecily and proposes to her. She accepts and tells him that she loves him because his name is Earnest, which is ironic because it’s the same thing Gwendolen told Jack. Afterwards, Algernon contacts Dr. Chasuble to christen him so that he can change his name to Earnest, the irony here is that Jack has also done this.
The story continues when Gwendolen comes to visit Jack, but since he isn’t home Cecily meets with her until he comes back. They immediately like each other and agree to call each other by their first names. However, while they converse they learn that they both plan to marry Earnest even though Earnest doesn’t really exist and they both plan on marrying two different people. After the girls start believing that they are in love with the same man they turn on each other and start calling each other by their proper titles. In this scene Wilde is exposing how petty the upper class is through Cecily and Gwendolen, at first they call each other by their first names and then revert to proper titles because of their argument.
Jack finally comes home and finds the Cecily and Gwendolen having tea. Immediately Gwendolen asks him if he’s engaged to Cecily. He denies the claim and Cecily tells Gwendolen that he is actually her guardian Mr. John Worthing. At this Algernon enters and Cecily says that he is the true Earnest. She then asks him if he is engaged to Gwendolen. He denies the claim, but Gwendolen says that his name is actually Algernon Moncrieff. The girls make up and after Jack tells them that there is no Earnest they both leave the house. The satire in this makes the play hilarious and is the reason why Wilde can get away with making fun of the upper class.
The third and final act starts with Cecily and Gwendolen asking the Jack and Algernon why they lied. They both respond that is was necessary for them to see each other and Gwendolen and Cecily forgive them. However, Lady Bracknell enters and after seeing Gwendolen with Jack she wants to know what’s going on. Gwendolen tells her that she’s marrying Jack, but the Lady Bracknell stills refuses to allow it. For a comic effect she also asks Algernon if this is the home of Bunbury and Algernon tells her that Bunbury is dead. He then introduces her to Cecily and tells his aunt that they’re engaged. Lady Bracknell isn’t sure she approves until she discovers that Cecily is wealthy. Jack then says that he won’t allow Algernon to marry Cecily unless she allows Gwendolen to marry him; still Lady Bracknell refuses to consent. Afterwards Lady Bracknell discovers that Jack is her sisters lost son and that Jack is Algernon’s older brother. With this knowledge she consents to his marriage with Gwendolen.
In this play we see not only the pettiness of upper class people through Lady Bracknell, but also their greed and shallowness through her immediate consent to Algernon’s marriage once she discovers that Cecily is rich. Wilde also uses marriage to criticize the aristocracy for corrupting a traditionally sacred ceremony into a financial contract that is based on wealth and status. In addition, Wilde is criticizing the leisure life style of the upper class. This entire play has absolutely no action and the drama is completely self created. He shows how far noble’s lives are from regular peoples through characters like Lane and Dr. Chasuble, who actually have to work instead of fooling around in social drama. Satire also allows Wilde to criticize the rich and powerful without offending them by making the characters look absurd and unbelievable. As Virginia says “the absurdity of the situations is made doubly absurd by the contrasted grace and dignity of everyone’s utterance (Brackett).” The outcome is a witty comedy that makes fun of the very people watching it! Truly, Wilde is a genius.
The Man That Was Used Up starts with an unnamed narrator meeting the famous Brevet Brigadier General John A. B. C. Smith. He instantly falls in love with the Generals physical characteristics. He describes the General as having the head of hair that would have done honor to a Brutus and the handsomest pair of whiskers under the sun. The narrator is not only captured by Smiths physicals, but almost everything about him he says that he never heard a clearer nor a stronger voice and when he spoke to him he said the gallant soldier preferred topics of philosophical interest, meaning he’s well educated.
The narrator decides that he wants to learn more about the General, but with respect to the tremendous events which occurred during the Bugaboo and Kickapoo campaign, a time of war. The narrator asks around to find out more about the General, but he discovers that the only thing people ever talk about when it comes to the General is his accomplishments. They never seem want to talk about his personal life. They only talk about how great the General is and comment on the wonderfully inventive age. The narrator then starts getting suspicious and starts thinking that there might be something that people are hiding or at least not showing.
He decides to visit the General’s home. When he enters he doesn’t see anyone home or anything strange. However, he does observe a strange bundle of things on the floor. The narrator kicks the bundle in order to move it and discovers that the bundle can talk. The bundle turns out to be the General and the story begins to unwind. The General calls his servant and has him put him together piece by piece. At this time during the story the reader discovers the real General Smith. He is completely fake all his limbs need to be attached including his legs, arms, shoulders, eyes, teeth, and even his tongue. While the General is being assembled he actually recommends people to the narrator who can provide the best body parts for whatever part is needed.
In this scene we not only see that the general is fake on the exterior but also on the inside, before the general was seen as an intellectual elite however while his servant is putting him together he goes “now, you nigger, my teeth!” this is completely unprecedented behavior from the General and it’s a glimpse at the real person that he is. The General is actually a lot like the officer in “The Nose” and Gregor Samsa from “The Metamorphosis.” He is like the officer from the Nose in that he is a public figure with authority, but is completely fake. His authority is derived completely from what people see him as. If he tried to hold a public position as a bundle of human skin he would be shunned. Peeples confirms this in he’s writing when he says “Smiths prosthetic body parts can be read as emblematic of the cultural icons exalted reputations: the story advances the notion that public figures are largely artificial creations (Peeples 25).”
The General is also like Gregor Samsa, in the way that if Gregor would have never had his metamorphosis he would have eventually ended up like the General. The General did not have a transformation so he stayed in the machine and was completely absorbed by it until he started becoming one. The worst part is that since there was no intervention for the general, like Gregors, he never saw how much damage he was actually doing to himself. In fact, he embraced it, according to Peeples, “the man that was used up expresses no regrets at having being dismantled by savages, for his new parts seem to work better than those of mere mortals (Peeples, 25).” This made the General become the man that was used up.
This story may use many devices of absurd, but it makes its shocking points thanks to satire. The story builds up the image of the General through satire. The reader is able to see how highly regarded people like the General are in real life. The absurd is used to rip down the beautiful picture of the General as was previously painted, still this is a form of irony to show people that what they may worship may actually be much less than we they believe it to be.
In conclusion satire can be used in many different forms for writers to express themselves. Because satire allows writers to send their readers messages in a very indirect ways, writers can express themselves without being prosecuted. As has been in “Gulliver’s Travels,” “The Importance of Being Earnest,” and “The Man That Was Used Up” satire is an incredibly powerful tool because it allows writers to expose corruption, oppression, and lies that many people end up believing.
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