Individuality. A Review/Commentary Of "Gulliver's Travels" By Jonathan Swift

1894 words - 8 pages

A group is defined as a number of individual parts gathered together and considered as a whole: multitudinous stars considered as a galaxy. The interaction between a group and its parts is intricate: the position of each star slightly affects the movement and spin of the galaxy, and the placement of the rest of the galaxy drastically affects each star. Unraveling the causal relationships here may seem a daunting task. After studying the heavens, Jonathan Swift offers his conclusions in the work of Gulliver's Travels. One of these is the unfeasibility of grouping according to a communal ideal. Communal star clustering must fail. In explanation, Swift shows that the problems with communal clustering are not due to a faulty combustion within individual stars, but to the repercussions caused by the interaction of those stars. With the earth as our universe, societal problems are not due to malignity within individual persons, but rather to the consequences of groups and interaction within that largest of human groups: mankind.For many centuries, philosophers have argued about the best method of clustering stars, grouping individuals within society, and a favorite solution has been communalism. Proponents include Plato with the 'Republic', Sir Thomas More with Utopia, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels with the "Communist Manifesto", and modern day churches (ie LDS) with their planning of future communal Zion. All these presentations of communalism have certain aspects in common: community of property (and consequent needlessness of money), contentedness of societal members, and portrayal of communalism as the method of providing maximum benefit to each member of a society. Each proscribes communalism as the direction in which future society should proceed.In Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, we see a communal order with many of these characteristics. In Swift's land of the Houyhnhnms, abundance is distributed equally to all, and "where-ever there is any Want (which is but seldom) it is immediately supplied by unanimous Consent and Contribution" (Swift, 236). The Houyhnhnms have no need of money, for property is communal, and they are generally content. Indeed, the Houyhnhnm society would appear to be similar to other communal portrayals in a multitude of ways.An important difference exists, however, to distinguish Swift's version from those which both preceded and followed, making Swift's more the satire and less the futuristic vision. Unlike other portrayals, the members of Swift's society do not take human form, but instead are cast as horses. This is more significant when we consider that the other societies (non-communal) portrayed in Gulliver's Travels: the Lilliputians, the Brobdingnagians, the Laputans, Balnibarbians, Luggnaggians, etc., all contain members following the basic homo sapien layout.Why the abandonment of human form for the communal portrayal? One plausible answer is that Swift believes a communal order beyond the reach of...

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