SATIRE IN GULLIVER S TRAVELS The story Gulliver s Travels by Jonathan Swift is full of many different literary elements; each helps to enhance Swift s imagery. The most prevalent of these elements is satire or the use of humor and wit to criticize certain individuals or societies. Although it may sound unlikely, Swift criticizes humanity because of his love for it and because of dreams of curing mankind s ills through humor. It is through satirical humor that Swift is able to disguise his criticism and still make his point. Through each of Gulliver s travels, Swift uses satire to reflect upon the human condition. Gulliver s first journey takes him to Lilliput, a land inhabited by six-inch tall beings.
Swift s irony begins almost immediately when Gulliver finds himself a giant yet also a captive. He learns the language of the Lilliputians and eventually bargains a deal with them that will allow for his release. Gulliver is expected to protect Lilliput from an attack by the people of Blefscu. It is at this time in the story that Jonathan Swift takes time to point out a few of the less intelligent traits of the English. The Lilliputians tell Gulliver this story: a long time ago, the people of Lilliput used to break their eggs on the large end. One time, the current king s grandfather cuts himself doing this, so the king at the time, the father of the present king s grandfather, proclaims that everybody is to break the eggs on the small end.
Some of the townsmen refuse to do this, and they flee to Blefuscu. The two countries have been warring for quite some time according to the king. Swift compares the two countries to England and France and the useless fighting between the two. During Gulliver s trip to Lilliput, Swift also takes the time to criticize how the English appoint political officials. Swift tells that the Lilliputians must do a rope dance, and the best rope dancer gets the best political office This is intended to represent how the English choose their politicians. not by skill and character but by who has the most money.
Gulliver s second voyage finds him in Brobdingnag, a land of savage giants. Here Gulliver is treated like a circus freak, forced into performing for the amusement of the general public until the country s royal family learns of him. Once he is taken to the royal court, he spends some time telling the king about the present situation in Europe. He tries to talk up his own country, but ends up divulging the vice and immortality to be found in England. The king sees this and comments that ignorance, idleness, and vice are the proper ingredients for qualifying a legislator (266). He sees the majority of the English people as the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth (266).
Gulliver is portrayed as extremely ordinary compared to these giants, and their traits are unattainable to the average human being. However, Gulliver is still blind to the truth, so Swift decides that more travel is necessary to satirize humanity. Gulliver s third voyage takes him to Laputa, the floating island. For a change, the inhabitants are similar in size to Gulliver. However, he does not have very good first impressions of the people, who he sees as highly learned in math, yet very clumsy and uncoordinated in their daily routines. Swift slips his own views in here, as Gulliver relates to himself that this seems to be a very common trait in humans as well.
Gulliver chooses not to stay in Laputa long, and goes farther down to Glubbdubdrib, the Island of Sorcerers. The island s governor lets Gulliver listen to many of history s greatest minds, and it is through them that he comes to terms with human nature s most negative aspects. This late in the story, Jonathan Swift has made the readers obviously aware of his negative views of human nature. Gulliver s fourth and final journey lands him in the land of Houyhnhnms, very intelligent horses. It is here that Swift s satire is at its absolute peak, for also living in this land are the Yahoos, which Gulliver finds most disagreeable. However, upon meeting them several times, Gulliver finds only one difference between himself and the Yahoos, and that is that they lack cleanliness and clothing.
It is here that Swift makes his final point, and shows all of humanity s flaws and end in the degradation of humankind. In each of Gulliver s voyages, Swift uses satire to help express his views on the human condition. In the first trip, Gulliver is a giant among little people, which shows that at this point Gulliver is still a very proud man, oblivious to his faults. In his second excursion, he is a midget among giants, and his eyes begin to open a little.
On his third trip, his self-image continues to spiral downward. On his final voyage, Gulliver finally comes to terms with humanity s negative traits, and Swift succeeds in presenting his viewpoints on the human condition through satire.