Gulliver's Travels Coursework - From your study of Gulliver's Travels. Show how Swift Uses Language for Satiric Purpose, to 'lash the vice' he Finds in the World. Gulliver's Travels may have been seen as an adventure story by a few misguided individuals, but it is a satirical novel. Swift wrote the book in order to allow people to understand the overall tribulations that were in the British government and British society at the time and to comment on the blemishes of the human race in general. These ranged from hypocrisy to down right pettiness and stupidity.
Swift achieved these things through the wonderful use of satire. The novel is a compilation of four books, where in each book, Gulliver lands on a different island with a different or otherwise similar race of creatures or people. This landing on different islands allows Gulliver's perspective to be changed continuously from book to book. Through his perspective changing, Swift uses satire where his objections to the British government and / or the overall human kind come into view. What emphasizes the satirical points is the fairly emotionless language that is used in each book.
The reason it emphasizes the points, is because of the style in which it is written, forces us as readers to realize or comprehend problems with the statement, opinion or description that Gulliver makes or otherwise made by someone else. In Part I, where Gulliver arrives on Lilliput by shipwreck, he is taken prisoner on the beach by a civilization of six inch tall people who believe themselves to be the most powerful nation in the world. Gulliver comes to see these people of course, as petty and stupid. What Swift is satirizing in this part of book is the pettiness of the Britain its officials and its patrons.
Swift is also making fun of Gulliver, because Gulliver is a patron of the British government, and Gulliver has done the exact same types of actions which the Lilliputians are performing. What Swift thought about the British Empire is that although it perceived itself as being large, powerful and overly special, it was in the end, another nation similar but no better and probably no worse than any other. This impression of the British Empire and its people, can be easily seen through the Emperor of Lilliput, who sees himself as a being with unimaginable supremacy. Not only does the Emperor believe this, but his people do as well. The idea of someone as small and silly as the Emperor of Lilliput being a powerful force on a small island in the middle of the sea is purely outrageous, and this is exactly what Swift wanted his readers to see and understand; that Britain was exactly like Lilliput. Perhaps another prominent example of satire upon Britain and more towards its government is the way in which officials are allowed into office.
Gulliver observes a diversion where the general Lilliputian population have the custom of watching their politicians perform their skills on a rope. Gulliver soon comes to understand the point of these humourous performances; they determine your place in office! Gulliver of course sees this as an outrageous way of receiving a title in office, but Swift again uses the weapon of satire in which the corruption and outrageous performances made by the politicians represents Britain's corrupt government. Then the performances are awarded with useless silk ribbons which include the colours blue, red, and green. What these represent is the noble orders of Garter, Bath and Thistle, which were presented by George I in ways of getting political support. The presentation of noble orders is exactly what Swift is talking about, in which orders are awarded to people of a specific class and / or lie, and pay their way into office. It is clear that Swift satirized the British government by presenting them as petty and a corrupt power, that believes it is powerful and is very blind to its own hypocrisy, by being wrapped up in their own arrogant thought and views.
In book II, Gulliver arrives on Brobdinag to fetch water, when fellow comrades leave him in fear and he finds himself surrounded by giants. The perspective has switched from Gulliver looking down upon the petty ways of gaining acceptance from higher powers, to being looked down on by giant humans. This is perhaps the introductory chapter in which perspective has a dramatic effect on Gulliver's views and opinions of human beings in general. Gulliver is with a group of maids who un dress in front of him, and he sees the imperfect bodies of these women who would be considered beautiful.
Gulliver finally realizes that and has a greater understanding that human beings are not and cannot be perfect. This is perhaps Gulliver's first insight into physical human inadequacy, before he comes across the Yahoos, where he immediately discovers the horror of human beings' instincts and their behaviour. Gulliver is seen, by Brobdinagians, as a mere toy or otherwise a petty being with petty ways; many laugh at him with his behaviour and most importantly, the King of the Brobdinag spots the faults in him and the British government. Gulliver describes the way the British government works to the King of Brobdinag, and the King immediately spotted the hypocrisy, corruption and stupidity which the British government seemed to feed on. Gulliver then very proudly, hoping he can finally impress the king, describes gunpowder. The King immediately states; "the most pernicious race of odious little vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth!" .
The King has immediately pointed out that weapons of mass destruction are not the answer to problems that the British face and this statement is another introductory proclamation into the true nature of mankind. This of course is Swift's statement, in which he expresses his beliefs that humans should use words to solve problems and not something that can kill millions and was produced due to a mere insecurity. Swift then makes fun of Gulliver and blindly produces an ironic tone when Gulliver states that the king has "short views." Swift has filled Gulliver's statement with irony, because as the audience later discovers that Gulliver is angered by the fact that Laputa could destroy a nation whenever it wants. Swift has reinforced his point with Gulliver's ironic statement, that weapons should not be thrown at a problem and other means which do not include violence should be used. In Book III, Gulliver is cast adrift by pirates after his ship has been taken over and he is picked up by the inhabitants of the floating island of Laputa, who are most unusual. Noticeably it appears that Gulliver seems to get unluckier by book in the ways in which he arrives on each of these lands.
The satire is from Swift's beliefs of learning what is useful and what people would need to the skill that they were most adapted to have in life. On Laputa, Gulliver encounters beings who are odd looking and are so intent in their own thoughts that they need 'flappers' who hit them somewhere on the head so the beings do not fall from the floating island. The idea of these abstract thinkers reflects on the island that they inhabit, which floats around the Pacific ocean. This floating island is an abstract idea and is 'up in the clouds'. This phrase generally describes day dreamers and abstract thinkers. These types of people angered Swift, and these pondering Laputians are a satire of abstract thinkers in Britain who would reflect on pointless subjects, without a real root / base for their theories or ideas.
This point is again reinforced when Gulliver comes across inventors on Balnibari in the Academy where their inventions are so unbelievably outrageous, they serve more as humourous accounts of ridiculous people. But the humour is the satire, and these inventions reflect scientists, philosophers and inventors in general who would try to invent things based on no accountable theory or previous knowledge. The name of the island Laputa, is Spanish for 'the whore'. Much of Swift's generation were coming to see science as a divinity, because it involved the studying of natural elements that came from 'Mother Earth' to conceivably improve life for human beings. It appears that Swift believed that scientists (men in general) were taking mother earth's natural elements and de-constructing them to better humankind through science. A prominent example is when a dog dies after a humourous procedure where a bellow is stuck up the dog's anus to create a cure for a sickness of some sort.
The patient / dog dies 'on the spot', and this of course represents the danger of science and that creations from mother earth, in this case a dog, are merely used to perform tests on (as earlier stated) for the better of humankind. Otherwise, Swift came to see science as a whore, because typically the job of a whore is to pleasure someone, and the person who the whore pleasured generally does it out of self satisfaction. Not only does the person who the whore pleases obtain personal gain, but the whore would also receive money for her own personal satisfaction. It is clear that Swift felt that science was doing this same sort of procedure to mother earth.
In Book IV, Gulliver arrives in the land of the Houyhnms. He lands on this island through mutiny on his ship, this is most severe way in which Gulliver arrives on any of the lands. When Gulliver firsts arrives on the land of Houyhnms he encounters the Yahoo's, a creature that represents a degenerate version of man kind. Gulliver is of course disgusted by these creatures, however he at first fails to realize that they are what he is, humans.
Then he encounters a race of horses, called Houyhnms, who are generally smart and untainted. The island of the Houyhnms represent the two opposite sides of human beings; the Yahoos represent the evil, beats like, cruel and mischevious side of humans, while the Houyhnms represent the caring and accepting side of humans. Gulliver stands between these two personalities of man kind, and of course tries to be a horse, who accept him, however they continuously point out that he is a Yahoo. Gulliver is horrified as he slowly begins to realize he is Yahoo in shape and form, which can be represented as the main body to Gulliver's final realization to human beings' physical imperfections.
Swift clearly concludes that humans must have both these physical traits and psychological ways of thinking I order to be human. The Houyhnms do not believe that Gulliver came from another land across the ocean, and they believe he is merely a slightly smarter Yahoo. The Houyhnms otherwise interpret everything to the point that if they cannot see it, than it does not exist. Gulliver believes this is fantastic and wants to stay with them, but is forced to leave. When Gulliver returns home, he cannot stand the smell of his wife, this puts Gulliver at a fault because he is what his wife is, and he is being extremely hypocritical. Swift has satirized Gulliver because of his shoving of herbs up his nostrils to block out the scent of his wife, which is actually him, it is his pride which blocks out his own scent.
Gulliver does not seem to except the idea that he is partly a Yahoo. What Swift has clearly presented is that one must live the way they are, and they cannot strive to change it, because one who does strive for change in the way they are is becoming narcissistic. Overall, it is clear what Swift satirizes; Britain and its government, science and its somewhat overly abstract thinking, and finally Gulliver himself. Noticeably Gulliver's perspective changed from book to book, in which his bitterness for physical and psychological aspects of human behaviour grew, but not to the extent that we as readers would like to. This is certainly due to Gulliver's pride, which makes him blind to his own hypocrisy. It is important to understand that Swift's main purpose in this novel is that it was written not to complain, but to make people understand and realize the destructive side, the hypocritical side, the proud side and imperfections of humans in general.
Swift furthermore, wants people to live life with a certain purpose that they feel acquainted to and to continue comprehend the meaning of their life.