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Robert Corrigan: Can Gulliver's Travels Be Considered A Comedy?

1047 words - 4 pages

According to Robert Corrigan, Comedy is a means by which we master our disillusionment with a dishonest or ignorant world. Corrigan’s theory of comedy states that by recognizing the blunders and stupidity of humanity, we would be able to liberate ourselves with wise laughter that purges our discontent and causes us to be aware of the wrongness in our society and selves. By relating Gulliver’s Travels to this theory, I state that Gulliver’s Travels can be considered a comedy in three ways: firstly, it allows us to recognize the imperfections of humanity, which is represented and described by the protagonist, and so fulfils one requirement of Corrigan’s theory of comedy. Secondly, the text causes us to become aware of the faults in human society through laughter, to remove the sting of the criticism. Finally, Corrigan states that comedy should be a tool for us to master our disillusionment with our society, this the case for Gulliver’s Travels, since at the end of the book Pedro and Portuguese ship captain shows the reader clearly that humanity is still not beyond hope of redemption, and we should seek to overcome our flaws.
For most part of the text, Gulliver is representative of the human race, in all its foibles and idiocy. Through books one to three Gulliver is an ardent proponent of the human race and regards every scientific or social inventions they have made to be worthy of admiration and praise. For example, in the court of the Brobdingnagian King, Gulliver unabashedly informs, and even offers to make for the King of Brobdingnag, the human invention of gunpowder, which, as Gulliver proudly states, can “rip up the pavement, tear the houses to pieces, burst and throw splinters on every side, dashing out the brains of all who came near.” The graphic gruesomeness of his description very effectively elicits disgust from the reader, and distances us from Gulliver’s self-laudatory viewpoints. This allows us to recognize one facet of humanity’s many imperfections– that we are bloodthirsty, cruel and savage, and celebrates the causing of death and destruction by deceiving ourselves that such actions display courage and honour. Gulliver’s explicit, disgusting description of the pain and cruelty perpetuated by humans upon fellow humans forces us to realize the fact that many human inventions are created and glorified solely for the purpose of sowing death, and, that being the case, our compassion and sense of morality must be extremely out of true. From here, we are made aware, through the protagonist recounting of human inventions and engines of war, of humanity’s imperfection, that is, basic violent and cruel tendencies, and so, by Corrigan’s definition, fulfills a theory of comedy.
Secondly, Gulliver’s Travels also make us aware of the flaws of humanity through laughter. This is most clearly evident in the antics of the Lilliputians, who represent the arrogance and pompousness of human society. For example, the Emperor of Lilliput describes...

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