Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels Essay

1664 words - 7 pages


Although Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift has long been thought of as a children's story, it is actually a dark satire on the fallacies of human nature. The four parts of the book are arranged in a planned sequence, to show Gulliver's optimism and lack of shame with the Lilliputians, decaying into his shame and disgust with humans when he is in the land of the Houyhnhmns. The Brobdingnagians are more hospitable than the Lilliputians, but Gulliver's attitude towards them is more disgusted and bitter. Gulliver's tone becomes even more critical of the introspective people of Laputa and Lagado, and in Glubbdubdrib he learns the truth about modern man. Gulliver finds the Luggnuggians to be a "polite and generous people" (III, 177), until he learns that the Struldbruggs' immortality is a curse rather than a blessing. Throughout the course of Gulliver’s Travels, Gulliver’s encounters with each culture signify a progression from benevolence towards man to misanthropy, resulting in Gulliver's final insanity.

In the first part of the book, Gulliver arrives on a strange island and wakes up tied to the ground by a culture of six-inch tall Lilliputians. Gulliver is amazed by the skill of the Lilliputians in handling him, but he is offended by their disrespect: “…in my Thoughts I could not sufficiently wonder at the Intrepidity of these diminutive Mortals, who durst venture to mount and walk on my Body, while one of my Hands was at Liberty, without trembling at the very Sight of so prodigious a Creature as I must appear to them” (I, 8). However, Gulliver complies with every inconvenience that the Lilliputians bestow on him, because he allows them to take him prisoner even though he could destroy them with one stomp. It is rather amusing that Gulliver surrenders to these tiny

people so quickly: “…when I felt the Smart of their Arrows upon my Face and Hands…I gave Tokens to let them know that they might do with me what they pleased” (I, 9). They also tie Gulliver up as if he were a dog, and search his pockets in order to confiscate any weapons, among numerous other actions in which Gulliver placidly succumbs. No matter how respectful Gulliver is, however, it is negated by his lack of shame. By urinating on the queen’s palace to put out a fire, he does not realize that he offended the queen immensely, and this is the cause for his impeachment. By making these people small, Swift seems to be criticizing man’s petty nature, but Gulliver is oblivious and gullible, treating them as if they are bigger than they actually are. Gulliver’s attitude towards the Lilliputians shows that he has respect for humanity, no matter how small, even though the respect is not returned.

In contrast to the tiny, petty Lilliputians, the Brobdingnagians are huge and unexpectedly docile. Gulliver’s expectation when he sees the first Brobdingnagian is rather pessimistic: “ For, as human Creatures are observed to be more Savage and cruel in Proportion to their Bulk; what...

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