Satire In Jonathan Swifts Gullivers Travels

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Jonathan Swift was a writer in the 16th century. One of his greatest novels was Gulliver's Travels. This book includes many instances of satire, and Swift is not afraid to speak his mind about politics, science, and society. His novel is full of his opinions, and the parallels between his story and the real world in his time are remarkable.

In the first part of the four that were written, Swift tells of the first voyage that Gulliver takes. Swift writes about Gulliver's journey in great detail. Throughout the entire first journey, Swift strongly emphasizes his viewpoint of the British political system, as well as the religious conflict in England. The way Swift can work these topics into a story for children shows how great of a writer he is. The first point of emphasis where we begin to see his satire is very early on in the book. By this time Gulliver had become acquainted with the little Lilliput's and was admiring there governmental system. He watched as the Lilliput people competed from a position in the government. The Lilliput's simply "…performed upon a slender white Thread, extended about two foot, and twelve inches from the ground." (Swift 17) and the one that entertained the king most and "…jumps the highest without falling, succeeds in office" (Swift 17). This example is one of the many points of satire where Swift shows disapproval of the English government. In this passage from Gulliver's Travels, he parallels how easy and cunningly, Englishmen receive positions of leadership, much like the Lilliput's.

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Swift goes on to describe his disapproval of the ways England men fight over politics and religion. He does this in a few ways, first being the way that the Lilliput's and the Blefuscu's disagree on how to do something as simple as cracking eggs. The Lilliput's and the Blefuscu's have "…been engaged in war for six and thirty moons past." (Swift 25). The two empires choose to crack there eggs different ways and because they do not agree, they are at war. This is a great way of showing how outlandish we can be, as a government or just in everyday life. Swift was dissatisfied by the similarities between the story of the Lilliputs and the Blefuscus and his own government. The story that Swift wrote is almost an exact description of the British government at that time. The conflicts between Big-Endians and Little-Endians are very similar to the Protestant Reformation and the wars between Catholics and Protestants. Swift was very clever in his writings. The first section of this story shows just how dissatisfied Swift was with his government, and by the way he reflects it through his story, it shows he is a satire genius.

Jonathan Swift continues his story by telling of Gulliver's next adventure. In part two of this story, Swift gives us another perspective on the topic of the first part of the book. In the First section, he was the overseer, finding faults in the governments and daily struggles of the Lilliputs, in his second journey Gulliver finds himself being criticized by an overseer about his religions, politics, and everyday practices. This turn of events finds Gulliver on the Island of Brobdingnag. Swift expresses the same satirist tones he did in the previous section. The reversed view put a bit of a spin on the viewpoint that we had of Swifts interpretation of government. Whereas in the first section, we find that Gulliver is ridiculing the government of the Liliputs, but now, since Gulliver was original from England, Swift his almost directly ridiculing England's government. While Gulliver tells the King about his homeland, particularly his government, the king "…laughed…" and "…was perfectly astonished…" (Swift 92) by all the things that Gulliver told him. "I cannot but conclude 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." (Swift 93). Swift directly mocks the British government in these lines, using the king of Brobdingnag as his own voice against Gulliver. Swift definitively backs up what was satirized in the previous section by flipping the perspective over to the examination of Gulliver's homeland, and the British government himself. While Swift was a little more subtle in his satire about the government in the first part of Gulliver's Travels, Swift is very direct with his accusations of England's government in the second part of the story.

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In the third part of Gulliver's travels Swift uses satire to show his thoughts about science, and education. He does this by listing the different subjects and projects that the Laputan people are working on. The list gets progressively more ridiculous as the pages turn. In Swifts opinion, some of the fields of science and education, that people worked on in his time, had no point and were simply a waste of time. This is vividly portrayed in the book. The Laputans had absurd projects that they worked on but Gulliver would not be rude. He observed it all as if it was very important. One Laputan had spent "…eight years upon a project for extracting sun-beams out of cucumbers, which were to be put into vials hermetically sealed" (Swift 132). Another project a Laputan was working on was "…to reduce human excrement to its original food by separating the several parts, removing the tincture with it receives from the gall, making the odour exhale, and scumming off the saliva." (Swift 132). During Swifts time, the Royal Society of London was full of willing scientist and tried hard to create new pieces of technology, most of which failed. This is the probably explanation for Swifts ridicule of the sciences. Jonathan Swift obviously did not have much respect for the teaching of his time, nor the scientific advancements that where being worked on.

In Part IV, the last part of Gulliver's Travels Swift makes his last remarks, and this time they are not about the government or science, this time Swift uses his satire to tell what he thinks about society and humankind. Swift shows his disapproval of society by describing the Yahoos. The Yahoo's portray humans very strongly. They desire "power and riches," and are weak to the "terrible effects of lust, intemperance, malice and envy" (Swift 183). Another instance of Swifts mockery of human nature, is the difference between the Houyhnhnms and the Yahoos. The "faculty of lying, so perfectly well understood, and so universally practiced among human creatures" (Swift 180) was entirely foreign to the Houyhnhnms. Swift tells us that Gulliver was so wrapped up in the un-real world of the Houyhnhnms. He was surrounded by creatures that didn't know lying or deceit. He was bitter at the thought of returning to a land inhabited by humans, creatures that are filthy in the eyes of the Houyhnhnms. His description of these Yahoo's and the creatures that are above them really brings light to our society and our human nature. Swift obviously thought the ways that we humans treat each other is disturbing and appalling.

Jonathan Swift had some very strong opinions about politics, government, science, society, and many other things. He was a strong writer and was not afraid to convey those thoughts to paper through his praiseworthy book, Gulliver's Travels. His opinions ring true even to today's society. Gulliver was met with some very interesting circumstances and from it we learn just as much as him, but we can take some different interpretations from what he encountered. Gulliver's Travels was a great book and Swifts elaborate use of satire will keep Gulliver's Travels a well-remembered title for years to come.