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Gulliver's Time Travels: A Romp Through European History

1586 words - 6 pages

Gulliver’s Travels, written by Jonathan Swift, is a classic example of satire. It is a story about an English man named Lemuel Gulliver, a ship surgeon, and his adventures to mythical lands. He first visits Lilliput, a land where the inhabitants are only six inches tall, making Gulliver a giant. He then visits Brobdingnag, where the people are sixty feet tall, and he appears insignificant. He also finds himself in the land of the Laputans, Glubdubdribbs, Luggnaggians, and Struldbrugs for a short period of time. His final journey is to the land of the Houyhnhnms and Yahoos, where Houyhnhnms, horses, are civilized creatures and Yahoos, humans, are barbarians. During these travels, Gulliver discovers the truth about his homeland and humankind. In Gulliver’s Travels, Swift uses multiple examples of political, religious, intellectual, economic, and social satire to exhibit the faults of Europe in the eighteenth century.
Swift focuses on political satire throughout the novel. This first appears in Lilliput, where, in order to keep or receive a political office, the people must perform a tightrope walk to prove they are deserving and talented. The better they perform, the higher office they get (Swift 17). This means that there are many opportunities for people with talent, just like in France during Napoleon’s reign. This also shows that people are being rewarded for meaningless talents, which shows that Swift disagrees with this policy. Furthermore, in Lilliput, there are two groups, the Tramecksans and the Slamecksans, also known as the high heels and the low heels. These two groups have been fighting because the high heels are more agreeable to the Constitution and have much less political power than the low heels (Swift 25). The high heels represent the English Tories, who stood for the independence and authority of the crown and favored a ceremonial and traditional Anglicanism (Chambers 552). The other group, the low heels, represents the Whigs, who opposed royal prerogatives and Catholicism (Chambers 552). The emperor of Lilliput favors the low heels, which makes him reminiscent of King George I, who sympathized with the Whigs in England (Chambers 552). Political satire also plays a part later in the story.
More examples of political society appear later in the novel. The Lilliputians are also rivals with a slightly bigger country across a channel, called Blefuscu. They fight over which way to open eggs, whether at the smaller end, like Lilliput, or the bigger end, like Blefuscu (Swift 26). These two countries are very similar to England and France during Napoleon’s reign, because England eventually defeats France, though they are smaller, just as Lilliput defeats Blefuscu. Also, in both cases, the victor wins because of naval superiority. Similarly, the conflict is also like the English defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 (Chambers 462). The Lilliputians are like the British who surprisingly upset the large and...

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