Analysis of Politics in Gulliver’s Travels
Change is inevitable; it grows with the next generation and time and time again sneaks up on those that are not looking for it. This is true for music, fashion, literature, religion, and even politics. The tide of any of these subjects may change dramatically in a short period, however, the basic principles of each are never truly lost. The reoccurrence of once obsolete ideals can be proven simply by looking at the past and comparing to our current situation. This is also seen in literary plots spanning from the 1800s to today. The novels I am focusing on, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift and Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, are two prime examples of retrograde literature and the ability of essential doctrines to move from the past into novels of the future. Though authors may unknowingly do so, they are responsible for this continuation and the production of novels with identical or similar concepts. Although Gulliver’s Travels was written before Herland, they both mention politics and religion as overarching themes throughout the stories.
Gulliver’s Travels covers the adventures of Lemuel Gulliver as he discovers a number of unknown colonies with peculiar residents. Though his initial reaction, when arriving at Lilliput, is one of shock at the tiny citizens that attempt to restrain him, he also is presented with the political system that is Lilliput’s kingdom. The emperor, a hospitable man once Gulliver provides him with decent entertainment and protection, rules over a noble system and kingdom. This usually successful model is corrupted by the emperor’s willingness to place his friends and loved ones in positions of power, an act of blatant nepotism. Comparably, the king of the Brobdingnagians often contemplates the necessary actions for his government to be acceptable at least, exceptional at most. Other kings, like the one that rules over Luggnaggia, refused to consider the political ramifications of his actions; instead, he chose to force his subjects to flatter him and obey his every order and command. Finally, the Laputian king chose monetary gain over the success of his own kingdom, by selling off the lands that surrounded them he gained power through money, not respect. Swift may not be inherently misogynistic, but his continued placement of a male as the head of all ficticous governments in his novel perpetuates the stereotype that women are incapable of leading. This is most likely due to the time period Gulliver’s Travels was produced within, it is just an unfortunate view to have, especially when compared with the equality-driven society of Herland.
The patriarchcal model seen throughout Gulliver’s Travels is not easily overlapped with the socialist society seen within Herland. Rather than uplifting a singular person or a small class of well off individuals, the women within Herland’s society shift their focus to communal peace. The action of treating the entire community as if it is one large family produces individual members who care more about their sisters than they do themselves. Though some may see this as self-destructive, to this particular society, the concept of socialism provides a simple and trustworthy community in which they can raise their children. Common education and communal farming insure no inequality will take place, thus also insuring there will not be quarrels over “special treatment”. Furthermore, the lack of laws showcases the advancement these women have already made; there is not violence or a need for disagreement because they have reached their prime potential, only moving forward to further scientific and research based operations. There is a large difference with Gulliver’s Travels as we see a different political system in Herland than any mentioned in the former novel. Where Swift seems so focused on the necessity of a formal, rigid political structure, Gilman prefers a more simplistic approach. The change of ideals is stark, a night and day comparison of sorts; it is near impossible to find even a slight continuation from the early 1800s publication of Gulliver to the early 1900s publication of Herland and the Amazonian-like women. Gilman does not produce a singular leader within her colony of self-reproducing females; they all view each other as equals to not only those within their society, but also those who stumble upon them. However curious they may be, the women are not afraid of the men, nor do they feel the need to elect one their king and serve under him.
Though it is true in certain aspects that history does repeat itself, it is difficult to find such close comparisons when location, author age and gender, and a span of about a century create the differences spotted. Gulliver’s Travels enforces an age old idea that a patriarchy is the best option for a civilized land while Herland accepts the notion that perhaps there is no need for a ruling body. Given the fact that these two novels present quite separate ideas of a utopia it is not entirely fair to claim one as correct and the other as misinformed; however, it is not impossible to tell which literary piece and author expanded their frame of thinking to include larger possibilities for politics and leadership.
The Deconstruction of the Idea of Paradise
It is human nature to strive for paradise, but is it actually attainable? There have been countless attempts to establish utopian societies, yet ultimately, all have failed. In his work, Gulliver’s Travels, Swift recounts the journeys of Gulliver to various fantastical lands. Each land is vastly different from our own but also more similar than would ostensibly appear. In all the lands but the last, Gulliver finds that the other societies also experience much the same problems that plague human society. In the final land, however, that of the Houyhnhnms, human problems do not exist; instead, there is a much deeper, more profound problem – a complete lack of the very emotion which defines us as human. By placing Gulliver in various environments in which his perspective and relation to his surroundings change drastically, Swift is able to delineate, through the use of satire, the shortcomings of each society, as well as those extant in ours – shortcomings that cause us to fall short of a utopian ideal.
On his first journey, Gulliver travels to the land of Lilliput, where the inhabitants are a fraction of the size of humans. Despite this obvious difference in size, however, the society of the Lilliputians shares many attributes with that of humans. For instance, their politics are very similar to that of the Europeans. In their society, the nobles are advanced based on favor earned with the king by performing inane tasks, rather than ability in a specific area. Gulliver describes this practice, saying, “When a great office is vacant…those [rope dancers]…petition the Emperor…and whoever jumps the highest without falling, succeeds the office” (28). Swift uses this custom to satirize the manner in which European nobles advance themselves based on favor with royalty rather than ability. Because advancement is not based on merit, problems in the government ensue, thereby precluding a utopian society. Swift further ridicules European practices by citing the bitter war being fought between the Lilliputians and their kinsmen, the Blefuscans. This war is being fought because of disagreement as to the proper end on which to crack an egg. Gulliver says, “[Lilliput and Blefuscu] have…been engaged in a most obstinate war… It began…[when] the Emperor published an edict, commanding all subjects…to break the smaller end of their eggs” (40). This asinine reason for so much savagery and bloodshed is used to satirize the incessant European warfare. Swift feels that the constant wars between European powers are also being fought for equally asinine reasons. Violence due to such absurdity is yet another reason Utopia has not been achieved. By bringing Gulliver to Lilliput, Swift is able to expose various flaws in European and human society based on human pettiness.
On his next outing, Gulliver travels to Brobdingnag. Here he is a fraction of the size of the inhabitants, rather than the other way around. Due to this abrupt reversal, he undergoes a complete change in perspective. Despite this change though, he continues to observe many similarities between this new society and that of the Europeans. The inhabitants of Brobdingnag, like humans, have a very high opinion of themselves. Gulliver, however, exposes this opinion to be in error. He relates their numerous physical blemishes saying, “Their skins appeared so coarse and uneven, so variously coloured, when I saw them near, with a mole here and there as broad as a trencher, and hairs hanging from it thicker than packthreads, to say nothing further concerning the rest of their persons” (117). He continues, saying, “…[A] very offensive smell came from their skins…” (117). Disparaging their education, Gulliver says, “The learning of this people is very defective…” (136). There are clearly many things wrong with their society, yet they, like humans, refuse to admit to and address them. Also like humans, the inhabitants of Brobdingnag deplore practices which differ from their own. When Gulliver tells the King of various human practices, the King responds, saying, “…I cannot but conclude that the bulk of your natives are the most pernicious race of odious little vermin ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the Earth” (133). As humans often do, the King of Brobdingnag immediately dismisses and deprecates that which is different and that which he does not understand. Through Gulliver’s journey to this land of giants, Swift reveals faults that stem from the over-inflated sense of self prevalent in human society.
Gulliver’s next excursion takes him to Laputa, a floating island where the inhabitants are fanatical believers in scientific reasoning and technology. The Laputians, however, are utterly misguided in their attempt to harness the power science can provide. They conduct ludicrous experiments such as constructing buildings from the roof down and attempting to extract sunlight from vegetables. Their clothing is also adorned with scientific symbols, and their eyes pointed toward astrological signs. They literally cannot see straight. The pursuit of knowledge through science has completely overtaken their lives. Common sense has been abandoned, leaving the Laputians to pursue enlightenment blindly and stupidly. They’ve sacrificed sense for reason and lost both. Here Swift is pointing out the folly in relying solely on scientific reasoning and its inability to provide the solution for the puzzle of Utopia . Also in this land, Gulliver meets the Immortals. These Immortals do not live blessed, envied lives though. Instead, their immortality is viewed as an eternal curse, in which they are destined to live horrible, pathetic lives, utterly lacking in relief. Swift uses this example to show the foolishness in desiring eternal life. The journey to Laputa works to refute human aspirations concerning immortality and other impossibilities. Through Gulliver’s ascent to this land in the sky, Swift tells the reader to get his head out of the clouds.
Gulliver’s final and most significant journey takes him to the land of the Houynhnhnms. In this exotic locale, he discovers two societies that exist side-by-side but are completely different. One society is that of the Yahoos. The Yahoos have a bestial society, ravaged by rampant problems such as cupidity, lust, and vulgarity. They are described as “odious” (246), “degenerate and brutal” (248). They are driven by uninhibited emotion and live only to fulfill their primal desires. This society illustrates one extreme of humanity. If humans were to follow their passions without regard for the consequences and morality of their actions, this is what human society would regress to. In stark contrast to the Yahoos are the Houynhnhnms. They exist in a utopian paradise free of the problems that plague man. There are no problems which cannot be peaceably and easily solved, and there is no disease. They have achieved perfection. They are, however, fundamentally different from humans; they lack passion and emotion. It is because of this lack of any intense sensation, though, that they are able to achieve perfection. Humanity is, by definition, flawed, for that which makes us human, makes us inherently imperfect. By juxtaposing these two societies, Swift is able to illustrate the extremes of society – a society in which the pursuit of paradise has been completely abandoned and one in which it has been inhumanly achieved.
Each trip Gulliver takes provides the reader with further insight into the flaws of human society and the reasons for human failure to achieve a utopian ideal. Though the inhabitants of each land seem very different from humans physically, observation of their societies provides the opportunity to grasp more profound insights concerning our own. In Lilliput, the size of the inhabitants represent human pettiness; in Brobdingnag, the size of the inhabitants represent the human ego; in Laputa, the location of the island reveals our impractical aspirations; and in the land of the Houynhnhnms, the contrast between the Yahoos and the Houynhnhnms reveals the fact that perfection is the antithesis of humanity. Man possesses an ideal of perfection without realizing that that very image of paradise is simultaneously an image of the most torturous of hells. The only manner in which humanity could exist in perpetual bliss, is if humanity had no concept whatsoever of bliss. As Gulliver travels from land to land, the reasons for human failure to achieve Utopia are presented again and again, but at the end of his journeys, Swift provides the reader with the reason as to why this is so, or perhaps comes to the realization himself. Faced with a state of passionless existence as the only alternative to our flawed society, he stops criticizing that which cannot be changed and instead accepts it.
Moll Flanders and Gulliver’s Travels: Comparing the Depiction and Role of Money and Rank
The themes of money and rank are clearly present in both Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. In both works, the quest for money and a high rank is depicted as a driving force behind human actions and the necessity of money is seen as a cause for deception. However, the works’ protagonists hold entirely different opinions of money and rank. Moll equates money and rank with what is good and important, whereas Gulliver, as is evident in his discussions with his Houy master, notes the negative side of money and rank and equates them with sickness, considering them a contributing factor to negative aspects of English society.
One main similarity between the two works is that both authors depict the want of money and rank and the perceived power that accompanies them as a driving force behind human actions. Defoe interlaces money and rank into almost every aspect of Moll’s turbulent life and shows how the quest for money is the drive behind many of Moll’s actions and decisions. For a general example, Moll spends much of her life in a quest to find a suitable husband that will provide for her financially. Therefore, a wish for a better financial position in life pushes her to enter into relationships with many men. A more specific example is Moll’s entrance into a relationship with the banker in order to secure some wealth. After the marriage Moll notes, “I took Possession at once of a House well furnish’d and a Husband in very good Circumstances” (Defoe 250). This quotation shows the emphasis Moll places on the power of wealth, and reveals her true reason for marrying the banker.
In the same way that Defoe illustrates the idea of money and rank as a drive for human actions, Swift outlines this drive through Gulliver’s discussion on wealth and rank in England with his Houy master. Gulliver outlines the fact that the perceived power that accompanies wealth and rank is at the forefront of English minds:
When a yahoo had got a great store of [money] he was able to purchase whatever he had a mind to, the finest clothing, greatest tracks of land…, and have his choice of the most beautiful females. Therefore since money alone was able to perform these feats, our yahoos thought they could never have enough of it to spend or save (Swift 2419).
This obsession with money leads to the gap between the classes and the constant struggle of the lower class to obtain a livelihood, while the upper class puts poorer individuals to work in order to maintain their high status. Gulliver notes, “The rich man enjoyed the fruit of the poor man’s labor, and the latter were a thousand to one in proportion to the former” (Swift 2419). The lower class subjects itself to hard labor in an attempt to get money, while members of the upper class do all they can to maintain their status.
In the same way that both Defoe and Swift include the theme of money and rank as a driving force in human action, so too do the authors illustrate necessity of money as a cause for deception. In Defoe’s work, Moll is the absolute queen of deception in order to obtain money, which she can not seemingly obtain in any other way. Moll continuously plays the part of a woman of wealthier status in order to reel in a potential husband. She even goes so far as to disappear with a friend in the country for an extended amount of time, only to reappear as a new woman with a fictional wealthy reputation based on her appearance and manners. In this manner Moll plans to “deceive the deceiver” and catch a husband through deception (Defoe 123). In her use of deception, she marries her brother unknowingly, and later she uses deception to obtain a marriage to Jemy.
Just as Defoe illustrates the necessity of money as cause of deception, Swift demonstrates the same idea through Gulliver’s conversations. Gulliver explains that “Hence it follows of necessity, that vast numbers of our people are compelled to seek their livelihood by…robbing, stealing, cheating…forging, lying…and the like occupations” (Swift 2420). These actions, which are all forms of deception, are caused by the need for money.
Though Defoe and Swift illustrate similar ideas regarding money and rank, the protagonists of each work view wealth in entirely opposing ways. Moll equates money with that which is good and important, whereas Gulliver points out only the negative side of wealth. The reader becomes acquainted with Moll’s view of money as a symbol of good when she begins equating love with the money Robert gives her in exchange for sexual favors. Another example occurs near the end of the novel after Moll becomes a penitent. Though she moves to America grounded in her newfound religion, this simply is not enough to seal her happiness. She still seeks joy through money by beginning a relationship with her son in America simply to obtain some of his family’s wealth. To Moll, wealth is the final piece of the puzzle that will cement her happiness.
In contrast, Swift’s protagonist, Gulliver associates negative aspects of the English society with money. In general, his whole conversation with his Houy master regarding money takes a negative tone. More specifically, he relates wealth in the form of overabundance of food to sickness, “I told him we fed on a thousand things which operated contrary to each other; that we ate when we were not hungry, and drank without the provocation of thirst…which disposed us to sloth, inflamed our bodies, and precipitated or prevented digestion” (2421). The ability to indulge in such a fashion is a result of wealth. Swift also depicts the suffering associated with the various classes: “…The bulk of our people was forced to live miserably, by laboring everyday for small wages to make a few live plentifully” (2419). Whereas Moll associates money and wealth with love, security, and happiness, Gulliver associates wealth with miserable living.
The Duality of Book Four of Gulliver’s Travels
During the early 18th century, an explosion of satire swept through British literature. This period, often called the “Age of Reason,” was highly influenced by a group of the elite of society, who called themselves the Augustans and were determined to live their lives according to “truth” and “reason.” Likewise, they often found themselves the object of a good deal of satire. Among the satirists of this age were such distinguished authors as Daniel Defoe, Alexander Pope, and Jonathan Swift. Of the three, the most biting, most pungent, and most bitter writing came from Swift. Swift, unafraid to attack almost every institution, often found himself surrounded by controversy. His most contentious and his greatest work, however, was a series of chronicled voyages known as Gulliver’s Travels. Through the adventures of Lemuel Gulliver, Swift ridiculed everything from English politics to human nature. Indeed, Swift said that the purpose of his Travels was to “wonderfully mend the world” (qtd. in Rowe 143). All four books of Gulliver’s Travels are utterly filled with satire, which, simply put, is a type of writing that derides the frailties and vices of a person, an institution, or society in general. “The satirist holds up for his readers to see a distorted image, and the reader is to be shocked into a realization that the image is his own” (Dyson 673). The fourth book of Gulliver’s Travels, “A Voyage to the Houyhnhnms,” is particularly filled with satire, as Gulliver discovers a Utopian society of horses (Houyhnhnms) who sneer at humans (Yahoos) as being savage. Throughout the selection, Swift also includes irony in his work to aid him in his satire. Verbal irony (the kind that Swift uses) occurs when an author says one thing, but means something entirely different. Although Swift’s primary goal in writing the Fourth Voyage of Gulliver’s Travels was to point out the savagery of human nature, a closer reading reveals a more subtle, ironic caricature of the Augustans.
There can be little doubt that the major purpose of the Fourth Voyage is to reveal the barbarism of humanity. The theme is found nearly everywhere. The reader cannot help but feel in part ashamed of himself after finishing the book. As Gulliver first descends upon the island, he meets a disgusting group of humanlike animals known as Yahoos. Moreover, when he first sees them, he says: “Upon the whole, I never beheld in all my travels so disagreeable an animal, nor one against which I naturally conceived so strong an antipathy” (Swift 2). Towards the end of the story, it becomes obvious that the Yahoos are an exaggeration of mankind itself. More accurately, they represent the savage side of humanity. “Disgusting as the picture is, it still conveys an important moral lesson: it is a probable delineation of what humanity might become if exposed to the brutalizing influences of unregulated passions” (Kallich 70). Moreover, the amoral characteristics of human society appear to be just as bad, if not worse than those of the Yahoos. In fact, the horses of the Utopian society are shocked when they hear Gulliver’s descriptions of all the vices of people and society. Indeed, Gulliver’s description of the causes of wars is particularly astounding.
It is a very justifiable cause of a war to invade a country after the people have been wasted by famine, destroyed by pestilence, or embroiled by factions among themselves. It is justifiable to enter into war against our nearest ally, when one of his towns lies convenient for us, or a territory of land, that would render our dominions round and complete. If a prince sends forces into a nation where the people are poor and ignorant, he may lawfully put half of them to death, and make slaves of the rest, in order to civilize and reduce them from their barbarous way of living. (Swift 13)
Shortly after this selection, the horse to whom Gulliver explains the reasons of war draws quite a few connections between the humans and Yahoos by describing some of the very aggressive activities of the latter that suspiciously resemble the wars of mankind. Certainly, this passage indicates how the sovereigns of many countries can hide their selfish quest for power behind honorable motives. “The justifiable’ is stripped of the rationalizing euphemism of diplomacy and seen for what it really is: Reason of State and Realpolitik are just abstract shields for inhuman opportunism and blatant crimes” (Knowles 124). Likewise, this is a fairly obvious use of irony: Swift calls these actions “very justifiable” when the way he describes them indicates that he does not really mean this. This instance is simply one of many examples throughout the voyage of Swift satirizing the greed and primitive nature of humanity.
Even though Gulliver becomes a misanthrope by the end of the book, this viewpoint is not the one that Swift intends for the reader. At the end of the voyage, Gulliver is forced to return home, by the decree of the Houyhnhnms. When he arrives home, he cannot tolerate the sight of another human being (including his family) because he believes that, deep down, they are truly Yahoos. Many have argued that this is the opinion Swift wants his readers to take up. After all, at one point he did say, “I have ever hated all nations, professions, and communities, and all my love is towards individuals” (qtd. in Rowse 143). However, Swift made Gulliver far more misanthropic than he could realistically expect anyone to be. After his voyage, Gulliver forces his wife and son to eat dinner at the other end of a very long table. Swift intended for the reader to perceive this as silly and perhaps think him a little crazy. “Swift, in constructing the narrative of Gulliver’s transformation from a lover of mankind’ into a perfect misanthrope, went out of his way to introduce various signs into the story the natural effect of which would be to discredit, for attentive readers the extreme conclusions drawn by Gulliver himself from his stay in Houyhnhnmland” (Crane 334-335). Similarly, Gulliver is rescued and brought back to Europe by a Portuguese Captain by the name of Don Pedro. The Captain is extraordinarily nice to Gulliver, who still despises him on account of his being a Yahoo. “The Captain had often entreated me to strip myself of my savage dress, and offered to lend me the best suit of clothes he had. This I would not be prevailed on to accept, abhorring to cover myself with anything that had been on the back of a Yahoo” (Swift 35). Obviously, Gulliver’s refusal to wear something that had simply touched a Yahoo is a little on the extreme side. The last character discussed in the novel (other than Gulliver) happens to be a man with numerous virtues. Swift obviously wants his readers to see that, because of his experiences, Gulliver’s views on human nature are not exactly fair and rational.
Had Swift meant us to take seriously Gulliver’s antipathy to human kind,’ wouldn’t he have made his rescuer an unmistakable Yahoo? And isn’t his emphasis on Don Pedro’s virtues a plain indication, therefore, that he wanted us to think of Gulliver, at this final stage, as a person so infatuated with a false or one-sided theory of human nature that he is blind to any facts which contradict it? (Crane 335)
Gulliver obviously shares the point of view of his equine friends. If that view is wrong, it means that the Houyhnhnms are not the infallible beings originally portrayed. Clearly, if their main purpose is not a perfect race to which man should be compared, they must have another function in the story.
The Houyhnhnms, though apparently perfect beings, are actually just clever imitations of the Augustans. As said before, the Augustans dedicated their lives to reason and truth. Much like the Augustans, everything the Houyhnhnms do is based on a scientific process.
In their marriages they are exactly careful to choose such colors as will not make any disagreeable mixture in the breed. Strength is chiefly valued in the male, and comeliness in the female; not upon the account of love, but to preserve the race from degenerating; for where a female happens to excel in strength, a consort is chosen with regard to comeliness. (Swift 25)
This is a prime example of Swift’s use of irony to aid him in his satire. Throughout the story, he frequently mentions how good the society of the Houyhnhnms is when, through his description of their lifestyle, he actually shows the opposite. The lives of the horses lack passions, pleasures, and ideas. Even if they have no evils in their society, they have no real benefits either. If deleting all the risks in life is what it takes to eliminate vice, shouldn’t mankind accept the necessity of a little bit of evil? The world in which the Houyhnhnms live is far from perfect.
“The horses have, in fact, no passions at all. Their ‘virtue’ is not a triumph over impulse and temptation, but a total immunity from these things and an immunity which is also, by its very nature, an absence of life and vitality? If they are incapable of human bestiality they are even less capable of human glory or sublimity” (Dyson 681).
Swift is brilliantly making fun of the Augustan goal. After all, the “Houyhnhnm” scenario is the way the Augustans strove to live their lives. Later, in the Romantic period, they would be criticized for their scientific approach to everything and their strict adherence to reason. In this way, Swift was ahead of his time, and, although his book did not glorify emotion or anything of that nature, it certainly ridiculed the Augustans and their ideals. “Book IV is still valid, in fact, as a satire upon Augustanism itself. The Augustans, at their most characteristic, disapproved of strong emotions as necessarily disruptive, subordinated even those emotions they could not exile to the stern control of ‘Right Reason,’ and found no place for ‘feeling’ in their search for “truth’” (Dyson 682). The Augustans were a product of the Enlightenment, and with the help of social commentaries like Swift’s, they began to die out as people began to see how senseless a life dedicated to reason truly was.
Hence, the ironical ridicule of the Augustans was just as integral to Book IV as depiction of humans as Yahoos. The whole system of Houyhnhnmland is, in fact, an allegory. The horses represent true reason and the Yahoos pure emotion. Either one of these taken to an extreme is dangerous. If people let emotion completely rule them, they end up with a society without order, such as the Yahoos. On the other hand, if people dedicate themselves entirely to logic, they produce a society with plenty of order, but no vitality. A healthy community has a good mixture of the two. Swift leaves subtle clues like Gulliver’s illogical misanthropy at the end to indicate that one must see the value in both. Sadly, it is easy for a reader to walk away thinking that Swift thinks humanity to be evil. This piece in particular requires multiple readings to gather the true meaning of it. Indeed, there are many interpretations of the piece that criticize Swift for indicating that a flawless society could exist without religion of any kind. Obviously, the author of the criticism could not have possibly understood that the Houyhnhnms simply symbolized all that was rational, and religion would have been out of place in that context. Partially because of such subtleties, the Fourth Voyage, and indeed all of Gulliver’s Travels, contains outstanding satire. In fact, in a bizarre way, Swift almost betrays readers with his satire. He wins their trust with a tone of friendly conversation, and then begins to ruthlessly attack. Perhaps this was even why he was so effective. He also mastered irony by the time he died, as seen in his “A Modest Proposal.” His assaults on society did make people question themselves and their institution, and in a way, they did help to “wonderfully mend the world.”
Crane, R.S. “The Houyhnhnms, the Yahoos, and the History of Ideas.” Greenburg 402-6.
Crane, R.S. “The Rationale of the Fourth Voyage.” Greenburg 331-8.
Dyson, A. E. “Swift: The Metamorphosis of Irony.” The Writings of Jonathan Swift. Ed. Robert Greenburg. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1973. 672-84.
Glendinning, Victoria. Jonathan Swift: A Portrait. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1998.
Greenburg, Robert, ed. Gulliver’s Travels: An Authoritative Text. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1976.
Kallich, Martin. The Other End of the Egg. Bridgeport: Conference on British Studies, 1970.
Knowles, Ronald. Gulliver’s Travels: The Politics of Satire. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1990.
Rowse, A.L. Jonathan Swift: Major Profit. London: Thames and Hudson, 1975.
Swift, Jonathan. “A Voyage to the Houyhnhnms.” Gulliver’s Travels. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Available http://www.gutenberg.net
Different Educational Traditions in Gulliver’s Travels
Educational practices have evolved in a multitude of ways throughout human history. In Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, each land that Gulliver visits has its own idea of what education should be like for the citizens there. The first land Gulliver visits, Lilliput, which seems most similar to Gulliver’s home of England in its social structure, is also most similar in terms of educational practices. However, each subsequent land he visits is increasingly different from the schooling that Gulliver is used to. As a whole, the educational practices that Gulliver encounters in the various lands are different from the educational practices in England at the time of the book’s writing in 1726. Swift uses these differing practices to make a commentary on the state of education in early eighteenth-century England. Swift uses Gulliver’s Travels to expose the limits in the English educational system in the early eighteenth century through his depiction of schools in the novel’s various foreign lands.
In describing Lilliput, Swift reveals how the educational system is set up similarly to other historical governments in every aspect of life. In the Nurseries for Males of Noble or Eminent Birth, Gulliver reports how the children are “never suffered to converse with Servants” and are only allowed to see their parents twice a year, with the visits not lasting more than an hour (Swift 49). Additionally, Gulliver notes that the children are constantly under the watch of teachers so as to “avoid those early bad Impressions of Folly and Vice to which our children are subject” (49). Swift is addressing the elevated level of amusement and fun that is allowed in the English educational system compared to the Lilliputian system; professors surveil them constantly to prevent any merrymaking, which is not the case in England where the trend of formal education has not yet caught on and children are allowed to run and play freely. Moreover, in the Nurseries for Males of Noble and Eminent Birth’s female counterparts, the treatment of the children stays about the same, but with the inclusion of the small detail that the girls’ nurses would be severely punished and henceforth banished if they were found to “entertain the Girls with frightful or foolish stories, or the common Follies practised by Chamber-Maids among us” (Swift 50). Once again, Swift criticizes how the Lilliputians valued the gravity of their children’s raisings much more than the English did; the Lilliputians aimed to raise their children to be solemn leaders who knew nothing of the Follies of normal life. Unlike the Lilliputians, though, the non-noble children were not educated in England in the early eighteenth century. Education was a privilege that only the nobles were entitled to. The “Nurseries for Children of ordinary Gentlemen, Merchants, Traders, and Handicrafts” were ordered similarly to the nurseries for the noble children, with the exception of those going into trades, who went into apprenticeships instead (Swift 50).
While Lilliput had an orderly, structured system for schooling their youth, Gulliver found that the educational practices in Brobdingnag did not appease his standards for the proper education of children based on his raising in England. According to Gulliver, “the Learning of this People is very defective; consisting only in Morality, History, Poetry, and Mathematicks; wherein they must be allowed to excel” (Swift 125). This stance corresponds with the distaste Gulliver has for Brobdingnag’s lack of politics; in this land, the truth is valued more than the punishment for a crime, and the laws are stated so simply that loopholes are not a concern. Swift is indicating that human nature means having an inherent desire for complexity. The educational practices in Brobdingnag are considered defective by Gulliver because of their oversimplified nature: As a man learned in medicine, several different languages, navigation, and multiple sciences, Gulliver is appalled at the small range of subjects studied by the Lilliputians. In England, those fortunate enough to receive an education were taught a variety of subjects, so the Brobdingnagians’ simple manner seems inferior to Gulliver.
Despite his mild discontent with the Brobdingnagians’ educational system in comparison to the English system, Gulliver has a much stronger conviction against the Houyhnhnm system of education. For the most part, these sentiments are due to the fact that the Houyhnhnms only study four subjects: Temperance, Industry, Exercise, and Cleanliness. One facet of the Houyhnhnm educational system that sticks out to Gulliver is the fact that both sexes learn the same subjects. When Gulliver shares his educational experiences, he says his Master “thought it monstrous in us to give the Females a different kind of Education from the Males, except in some articles of Domestick Management” (Swift 261). The Master is appalled at the thought of males and females being separated for their schooling; The Master observes “one Half of our Natives were good for nothing but bringing Children into the World,” which Gulliver agrees with. Swift opposes sexism through the words of the Houyhnhnms; the idea of equal education for women was virtually unheard of in the early eighteenth century, yet here is an argument that women should not be limited in their educational pursuits solely because they can bear children. It also is worth noting that the Houyhnhnms, a non-human species, study subjects such as Temperance and Cleanliness: these traits are taught to human children through years of formal education and parenting, yet they are the main focus of the Houyhnhnms’ studies. The Houyhnhnms think very highly of themselves and act as if they are born already knowing everything there is to know, so they must study only their limited range of subjects. These educational practices are the most different from the educational practices in Swift’s England.
In yet another different direction from the first three lands, Laputa brings about a new design for an educational system that contradicts the English system. The Laputians are too focused on studying music and math to do anything other than music and math. Gulliver tours the Academy of Projectors in Lagado and understands why the whole city is in disarray; the Projectors work on projects that are in no way practical, such as trying to extract sunbeams from cucumbers, recycling food from human excrement to eat again, distinguishing paint by scent, or plowing the ground with hogs. The Laputians are so wrapped up in their own projects that they forget to listen or respond to other people. There is no way a system of education could be implemented so long as the focus of the Laputians is so narrow—the people cannot even collect their thoughts long enough to produce houses with correct angles or properly sewn clothes. This is a stark contrast to the Lilliputians’ rigorous system of nurseries and apprenticeships, or even the Brobdingnagians’ limited range of studies. In the Explanatory Notes, the Academy is compared to a real institution called the Royal Society (Swift 327nn152-157). The Royal Society was renowned for constantly working on fantastical experiments, just as the Laputians in the Academy. Swift did not see the Royal Society as particularly useful, so he drew parallels between the Society and the fictional Academy of Projectors to criticize the Society indirectly. In a way, this makes the Academy most similar to educational practices in Swift’s England, although the Royal Society was far less inclusive than the Academy. Education in England at the time of Gulliver’s Travels’ initial publishing was not nearly as impressive as the Lilliputians’ orderly system, but it was clearly more productive than Laputa’s tragic Academy.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution in the latter half of the eighteenth century, the education system in England lacked order and agreement amongst government officials. According to Clyde Chitty in his book Education Policy in Britain, “Eighteenth-century proponents of liberal political economy objected to all forms of education for the poor—and particularly Charity Schools—as dangerous and misconceived types of benevolence” (4). “They took seriously the view that too much education or school would simply make the working poor discontented with their lot” (4). In the wake of the Middle Ages, education for all citizens was not yet a right due to political figures being scared of what the lower classes would be capable of if they learned to read. The thought was that the translated Bible would be used as “a handbook for the radical transformation of England” (Chitty 3). The notion of keeping poor people, servants, and slaves in the dark is not a new concept, and this practice continued in England up until the early nineteenth century. In Gulliver’s Travels, Gulliver is a fortunate man in his town that he is able to study as an apprentice under a surgeon. Despite his constant commentary on the educational practices in the many lands he visits, Gulliver’s only mention of school back home in England is right after he leaves for one of his many voyages, stating how he left his family, “My son Johnny, named so after his uncle, was at the grammar-school, and a towardly child” (Swift 68). Grammar schools were common, but higher education was less expected of all people like it is today. This lonesome acknowledgment of formal schooling furthers the argument that the educational system in England in the early eighteenth century was just getting its feet off the ground.
In each new land, there is a contrast between the style of education Gulliver learns about and the education he experienced back home. For example, England has nurseries, but not in quite the way Lilliput does. Lilliput has their children separated and sorted and kept under lock and key until they are old enough to work, rule, or be married. In England, this happens in some cases, but in many cases the children are kept at home to do housework or learn a trade without being sent away. While Gulliver doesn’t give details about the structure of Brobdingnag’s schools, he does bring to light which subjects the Brobdingnagians study. Gulliver makes their studies seem like a minimal amount, especially in contrast to what Gulliver himself was taught in England before taking to voyaging. On a different note, the Houyhnhnms only deal in absolute fact, so the need for abstract topics such as poetry and morality (like the Brobdingnagians are taught) is nonexistent. Instead, the Houyhnhnms—male and female—learn subjects of no opinion, such as Cleanliness and Exercise. Subjects such as these are seen as supplementary in England as opposed to the entire basis of one’s schooling. The most different of all the foreign lands’ educational systems is the Laputians’, though. The Academy is an unorganized, impractical house of experiments with no sense of direction: this is a direct contrast to the Lilliputians’ strict rules or the Houyhnhnms’ required Cleanliness courses. Yet the Academy might be the most similar to the mad scientist experimentations that occurred in England during the early eighteenth century. Regardless of content, the educational structure of Lilliput resembles the educational structure of England most closely due to the prioritization of those of noble birth, the use of professors and maids, and the holistic sense of early childhood formation.
On the whole, Swift uses Gulliver’s Travels to expose the limits in the English educational system in the early eighteenth century through his depiction of schools in the novel’s various foreign lands. For the most part, the foreign practices aren’t implausible, but they all have distinctive qualities from the English education system. One glaring difference between the English practice and one of the foreign land’s practice (the Houyhnhnms) was the expectation in educating women: the latter expected equality while the former was shocked to hear the idea. This is a blatant attack on the sexism in the education system in England that limited girls from learning like the boys were permitted to. Overall, Swift recognizes the flaw in the premature English educational system of the early eighteenth century as over-prioritization of nobles and unequal opportunities for girls and boys.
Chitty, Clyde. Education Policy in Britain. Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver’s Travels. Oxford University Press, 1998.
An Analysis of the Topic of the Gulliver Character Written by Jonathan Swift in the Book Gulliver’s Travels
Gulliver in Lilliput Part One Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” tells the story of Lemuel Gulliver, a ship’s surgeon who has a number of rather incredible adventures, comprising four sections.” In Book I, his ship is blown off course and Gulliver is shipwrecked. In spite of his dilemma, Gulliver is at first impressed by the intelligence and modern abilities of the Lilliputians.
In Chapter II, the Emperor of Lilliput arrives to take a look at the “giant,” and Gulliver is equally impressed by the Emperor and his countries. They are elegant and richly dressed, and the Emperor attempts to speak to Gulliver civilly although they are unable to understand one another. “His Imperial Majesty spoke often to me, and I returned answer, but neither of us could understand a syllable.” It is in this chapter that Gulliver first asks to be freed and is refused by the Lilliuts.
As Chapter III opens, Gulliver and his captors have become great friends. Anyone desiring a high position at court is required to jump up and down on a tightrope stretched six inches above the floor (and remember Lilliputians are only six inches high). Only those who are able to do it win the office, and anyone wishing to remain in office may be asked to do it again. If he fails, he’s out the door, and a successful rope-dancer takes his place. Gulliver remarks that it would seem that noble birth or a fine educational background would seem to be better predictors of one’s ability to govern than dancing on a rope, but the Lilliputians find no sense in that. A similar “trial” requires office-seekers to jump over or crawl under a stick, sort of a combination vault and limbo exercise. The Emperor, who holds the stick, raises or lowers the stick suddenly and without warning, so the performer is obliged to change tactics midstream. Winners receive a snippet of colored thread, which they wear on their clothing with great pride. Gulliver delights the Emperor by inventing some new forms of entertainment, also; one involves making the calvary perform military maneuvers on the drum-taut surface of his handkerchief, stretched above the ground, but when a rider is thrown, Gulliver stops the game. At the end of this chapter, Gulliver is freed after agreeing to nine silly conditions. The first thing Gulliver does in Chapter IV is visit the capital city, Mildendo. Again, he is tremendously impressed by the Lilliputian’s technological and organizational skill, as evidenced by the beauty of their city. Now that he is an “insider”, Gulliver is told of the political problems besetting the country, both from the inside and from the outside. The domestic problem is an intense feud between people who wear low heels (such as the Emperor) and people who wear high heels, whom the Emperor would like to see out of power.
Unfortunately, however, the Emperor’s son has a fancy for high heels himself, but his fear of his father causes him to wear a low-heeled shoe on one foot and a high-heeled shoe on the other; this is why he limps. Lilliput is also under threat of invasion from a neighboring country, Blefuscu; the nature of their aggression seems to be religious. Apparently the current Emperor’s grandfather initiated a new religion which demanded that believers break their eggs on the smaller end. Many Lilliputians refused to do so, as since time immemorial their creed had been to break their eggs on the larger end, and they insisted on their right to do so. This caused them to emigrate to Blefuscu, and now that country, bolstered by its new angry citizens, is planning an invasion against Lilliput.
Gulliver in BrobdingnagPart Two Gullivers next voyage was to Brobdingnag. It was very unexpected there was a great storm a Gulliver was left on the seashore. “Scared and confounded as I was, I could not forbear going on with these reflections, when one of the reapers approaching within ten yards of the ridge where I lay, made me apprehend that with the next step I should be squashed to death under his foot, or cut in two with his reaping-hook. Pg 99” He was found by a Brobdingnag native, the creature brought Gulliver to a near by farmers house. There the creatures were the Brobdingnags were about sixty feet tale. The farmer’s family was very good in nature; the women made bed far from the floor in fear of the rats. The daughter named Gulliver Grildrig, which means manikin. Gulliver is sent to court to be bought from the farmer his so-called master. The Queen actually buys Captain Gulliver to present him to the king. Gulliver trys to tell her that he is a gifted man with a very high education. “I fell on my knees, and begged the honour of kissing her imperial foot; but this gracious princess held me out of her little finger towards me (after I was set on a table) which embarced in both my arms, and put the tip of it with utmost respect to my lip. Pg 114” She asks him a couple of general questions about were was he from and his travels. Then his master sold him to the Queen. Guliver is treated with the utmost respect, but during that time he is slave. This very adventurous part of the book because hummungs people pick Gulliver then sold then and then he fights with the Queen magestys daurf. He is always at their mercy just like he was at Lilliputs mercy at the beging. Gulliver sees why he dislikes this country it is because he loves his own country so much. Even though he is loved by everyone here at Brobdingnag, he wants home because he belongs there. The King and Queen don’t see that they to get a women that his own size, but Gulliver rather die than stay here for the rest of life. He tries to plied with the king but he is turned down he was in that horrible country for no the third year running.
Gulliver’s Transformation in the Fourth Journey
In Book IV of Gulliver’s Travels, Swift presents a narrative that aims to continually change his audience’s opinion by offering an array of perpetually shifting standpoints. From the start of the journey we see the tale unfold in the same manner as Gulliver experiences it. On his first encounter with a Yahoo, Gulliver does not see any parallels between that beast and himself, and when he is approached by a Houyhnhnm, he does not think the creature is anything more than a horse. The tale takes a turn as Gulliver discovers the reality of this realm and readers are presented with his opinions on the Houyhnhnms, as well as the Yahoos. This journey does not boast much plot action, but rather, renders interactions and conversations between Gulliver and the inhabitants of this strange land, mostly the Houyhnhnms. From these exchanges, Gulliver yields admiration towards the Houyhnhnms and abhorrence for the beastly Yahoos. His observations first seem agreeable as the two species seem to depict opposing values of what is and what is not the desirable way to live. However, as Gulliver’s observation causes him to undergo change, becoming shameful of his similarity to the Yahoos and imitating Houyhnhnm gestures, the reader cannot help but question his judgments.Chapter XI stands out as a section that best explores the absurdity of Gulliver’s transformation. Gulliver’s radical change revealed in this section not only portrays him as comical but also repulsively delusional. Whereas in previous chapters and especially in the very beginning of this tale, Gulliver believed himself and mankind to be of a different species than the Yahoos, he now detests the thought of returning to his home and dwelling among, not humans, but Yahoos. Gulliver even calls himself a “poor Yahoo” (300) when confronted by the Portuguese sailors. If man is Yahoo, then the notion of Gulliver mending his shoes with “skins of Yahoos dried in the sun” (289) and building his canoe with the same material is quite sickening. Gulliver’s equating man with Yahoos is illogical since his very being and presence throughout the tale suggests that man is different from Yahoos.This is not solely Gulliver’s error but also one the reasonable Houyhnhms make, who, if not referring to man as Yahoo, mark man as a worst and inferior type of Yahoo. It seems rather odd that the highly rational horses have trouble distinguishing Gulliver from the Yahoos and are able to differentiate themselves from the asses they wish to cultivate (283). Surely the Houyhnhnms cannot be as wise and praiseworthy as Gulliver describes them.Not only is Gulliver’s devotion to the Houyhnhnms questionable, but the Houyhnhnms and the values they represent become uncertain as well. At the beginning, in comparison to humans, the Houyhnhnms appear superior because they are truthful and live their lives rationally, and when Gulliver makes harsh statements about European society his comments are, for the most part, fair. However, as the system of Houyhnhnm life is revealed, they are depicted as dull and passionless. “Courtship, love, presents, jointures, settlements have no place in their thoughts,” and marriage is “one of the necessary actions of a rational being” (281). They are also just as unfeeling about death, for “their friends and relations express neither joy nor grief at their departure” (287). Even more shocking is their “regulation of children.” For instance, “if a Houyhnhnm hath two males, he changeth one of them with another that hath two females; and when a child hath been lost by any casualty, where the mother past breeding, it is determined what family in the district shall breed another to supply the loss” (282). Their inability to feel affection and attachment for even their own offspring is immensely unattractive and proves that Swift did not mean to equate the Houyhnhms as ideal. Oddly enough, the only Houyhnhnm that possessed any sign of compassion is the sorrel nag, a lowly servant who cries out as Gulliver departs their land, “take care of thyself, gentle Yahoo” (297).Greatly affected by Houyhnhnm values, Gulliver undergoes assimilation into human society in Chapter XI, and the result is sometimes comical, but mostly irritating. He is amusing as the Portuguese sailors laugh at his “strange tone in speaking, which resembled the neighing of a horse” (300). However, it is not comical but rather annoying when Gulliver exclaims, “I never heard or saw anything so unnatural; for it appeared to me as monstrous as if a dog or cow should speak in England, or a Yahoo in Houyhnhnm-land,” at the sight of seeing the sailors speak. Has three years of living among the Houyhnhnms changed Gulliver so drastically that he would think it “unnatural” for humans to speak? Beyond that, these three years have resulted in Gulliver not only re-identifying himself as a Yahoo, but also, all of mankind.Whereas in previous chapters Gulliver’s overbearing veneration for the Houyhnhnms is aggravating, in this chapter, his hatred toward humans is repulsive. Once banished from Houyhnhnm-land, Gulliver wishes to live in solitude and not return “to live in the society under the government of Yahoos” (297). When he is discovered by the Portuguese sailors, he begs for his freedom, explaining to them that he is “a poor Yahoo, seeking some desolate place where to pass the remainder of his unfortunate life “(300). Once on the ship, he even attempts to jump overboard and swim for his life “rather than continue among Yahoos” (301).Gulliver’s loathing towards humans is unjustified in this chapter, and his interchange with Don Pedro de Mendez depicts his unsound judgments. Gulliver describes Don Pedro as generous and gracious. However, like the uncompassionate Houyhnhnms, his best effort in returning kindness is to “treat him [Don Pedro] like an animal which had some little portion of reason” (301). As time passes on this voyage, Gulliver states, “in gratitude to the Captain I sometimes sat with him at his earnest request, and strove to conceal my antipathy to human kind” (302).Gulliver’s obsession of bodily odor is also silly as he is “ready to faint at the very smell of” the Captain and his crew during the voyage (301). This silly fixation on the body blinds him from acknowledging Don Pedro’s kindness on many occasions. Gulliver recounts, for instance, “the Captain had often entreated me to strip myself of my savage dress, and offered to lend me the best suit of clothes he had. This I would not be prevailed on to accept abhorring to cover myself with anything that had been on the back of a Yahoo” (302). In another instance, as they arrive in Lisbon, Gulliver states, “The Captain persuaded me to accept a suit of clothes newly made; but I would not suffer the tailor to take my measure…He accoutred me with other necessaries all new, which I aired for twenty-four hours before I would use them” (303). After what seems like a long ordeal, Don Pedro persuades Gulliver to take a walk in the streets; however, in order to do this, Gulliver must stuff his nose with rue or tobacco (303). Once he returns to England, he purchases some horses and explains that he favors the groom for the smells it produces in the stable (304).Gulliver, while forced into rejoining humanity, has nevertheless mentally and emotionally exiled himself from society. As he gradually works his way from the innermost rooms of Don Pedro’s house to the streets of Lisbon, his fear of man lessens, but his “hatred and contempt seemed to increase” (303). He only resolves to go home to his wife and family because Don Pedro convinces him that “it was altogether impossible to find such a solitary island” (303). Although Gulliver’s inability to appreciate Don Pedro is appalling, his reaction upon seeing his family is far worse as he recounts “my wife and family received me with great surprise and joy… but I must freely confess the sight of them filled me only with hatred, disgust, and contempt” (304).Gulliver’s attachment to the Houyhnhnms might not seem so ludicrous if he were capable of seeing the positive in human society such as Don Pedro and his own family. However, he is unable to experience or feel anything pleasant, and this makes both himself and the Houyhnhnms ambiguous, if not loathsome, figures to the readers. Like the Houyhnhnms who fail to see the difference between Gulliver and the filthy Yahoos, Gulliver loses sight of everything agreeable in humanity.The events of Chapter XI not only change the readers’ perception of both Gulliver and the rational horses, but also change the message Swift makes through his satire. It seems as though Swift had meant to tell his readers that life based on reason is ideal, commenting on appalling human practices such as war and the courts of Europe. However, by the end of the tale, life based on rationality seems inadequate as it is the cause of Gulliver’s isolation.Works CitedSwift, Jonathan. Gulliver’s Travels. New York: Signet Classic, 1999.
On the Style of Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift, an author whose life straddled the turn of the 17th century, is widely considered to be the greatest satirist in British literary history. Although he is well-versed in poetry and has written a prolific amount of private correspondences, Swift is best known for his prose fictions, such as The Battle of the Books, Tale of a Tub, and Gulliver’s Travels, and his pamphlets, namely A Modest Proposal. Swift’s works fall under the genre of satire, in which irony and sarcasm are used to deride or expose stupidity and folly, typically in society, politics, and human nature.The diction of Swift’s style can be best described as simple and prosaic. Only in rare circumstances does he deviate from a pattern of typical syntax and word choices and his normal writings exhibit no peculiarities in this respect. According to Scott-Kilvert (1980), Swift “tended to associate language with history, with politics, with religion… for his pamphlets, he needed a middle style, which would, in effect, avoid the extremes of decadent courtier or disloyal dissenter, of licentiousness and fanaticism. (29)” Sir Walter Scott, quoted by Read (1998), concurs about Swift: “His style, which generally consists of the most naked and simple terms, is strong, clear, and expressive; familiar without vulgarity or meanness; and beautiful, without affectation or ornament.”Indeed, the focus of Swift’s writings is not in the mechanics of the language, but rather, in the caustic irony and sarcastic tone of his satire. Swift artfully impersonates an awfully misanthropic economist or policymaker in A Modest Proposal, in which he sarcastically makes his case for the eating of Irish children as a panacea for overpopulation problems and poverty. Through the discourse, Swift refrains from breaking character during his straight-faced portrayal of this role, creating a ludicrous sense of sarcasm. In this premise, Swift created a heartless grotesque of actual politicians and economists who called for radical, imprudent measures or neglected to address the suffering of the impoverished Irish. Although they obviously never went to the extremes Swift went to in satirizing them (had they, the pamphlet would not have been shocking or out of the ordinary) their follies are mimicked in a sarcastic, almost asinine manner. While this would seem like a useless mockery — that is, commentary without explanation — Swift ingeniously works in his own genuine opinions and ideas towards the end, letting a reader already affected and amused by Swift’s acerbic sarcasm realize the piece’s social message. He writes:Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: Of taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound… Of curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our women: Of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance… Of being a little cautious not to sell our country and consciences for nothing: Of teaching our landlords to have at least one degree of mercy towards their tenants. Lastly, of putting a spirit of honesty, industry, and skill into our shop-keepers…. (8)Thus, Swift’s writing is not only amusing in its sarcasm and frank irony, but it is also meaningful in its call for social change based on common sense. This mode of satire manages to evoke both amusement and consideration2E The importance here hinges on the popularity of humor — while most common citizens wouldn’t be excited by tiring political refutations, humor is widely enjoyed. Swift’s intelligent brand of political and social humor can be immensely popular and can have a major effect in shaping public opinion2EIn Swift’s parodies, the style is determined by the format of what’s being spoofed. A Modest Proposal is written in the form of an actual political pamphlet. Formal, although non-florid language is used and the entire argument is written in a professional format. The beginning of A Modest Proposal explains the situation; from there, a mock plan is posited and facts are brought in to back it up (although humanity and sympathy are conspicuously neglected). In Gulliver’s Travels, the style is that of a travel or adventure story. Narrated by Lemuel Gulliver himself, the book is written simply (some even consider it a fairy tale today), in the form that was common of similar stories of the time. Swift did not typically venture too far from the conventions of the genre he was mimicking — to have done so would have been asinine. Instead, he worked within the frameworks of these conventions to parody not the conventions themselves, but society, politics, religious hypocrisy, and mankind’s follies using the conventions — i.e., Swift did not mock adventure stories in the fantastical and ridiculous destinations and characters of Gulliver’s Travels, but rather, he mocked the aforementioned as embodied by these destinations and characters. These characters could either be allegorical or representative of common sense in that they find the conventions of mankind strange or appalling (such is the case with the giant Brobdingnags).In summation, Jonathan Swift is considered one of the greatest British authors of all time due to his contributions in defining and perfecting the style of satire and parody. Swift achieves the desired effect of combining humor with biting, often misanthropic social and political criticism by deftly utilizing irony, sarcasm, and grotesque mimicry. It is a testament to his skill that his writings are with us today as the fundamental human follies which he satirized some three hundred years ago remain unresolved and still need to be made painfully explicit to successive generations.Works CitedMagill, Farnk N., ed. Magill’s Survey of World Literature. Vol. 6. North Bellmore, New York: Salem Press, Inc., 1993.Read, Charles A. “Jonathan Swift (1667 – 1745).” The Cabinet of Irish Literature 1880.Scott-Kilvert, Ian, ed. British Writers. Vol. 3. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1980.
The Failure of Paradise in Gulliver’s Travels
It is human nature to strive for paradise, but is it actually attainable? There have been countless attempts to establish utopian societies, yet ultimately, all have failed. In his work, Gulliver’s Travels, Swift recounts the journeys of Gulliver to various fantastical lands. Each land is vastly different from our own but also more similar than would ostensibly appear. In all the lands but the last, Gulliver finds that the other societies also experience much the same problems that plague human society. In the final land, however, that of the Houyhnhnms, human problems do not exist; instead, there is a much deeper, more profound problem – a complete lack of the very emotion which defines us as human. By placing Gulliver in various environments in which his perspective and relation to his surroundings change drastically, Swift is able to delineate, through the use of satire, the shortcomings of each society, as well as those extant in ours – shortcomings that cause us to fall short of a utopian ideal. On his first journey, Gulliver travels to the land of Lilliput, where the inhabitants are a fraction of the size of humans. Despite this obvious difference in size, however, the society of the Lilliputians shares many attributes with that of humans. For instance, their politics are very similar to that of the Europeans. In their society, the nobles are advanced based on favor earned with the king by performing inane tasks, rather than ability in a specific area. Gulliver describes this practice, saying, “When a great office is vacant…those [rope dancers]…petition the Emperor…and whoever jumps the highest without falling, succeeds the office” (28). Swift uses this custom to satirize the manner in which European nobles advance themselves based on favor with royalty rather than ability. Because advancement is not based on merit, problems in the government ensue, thereby precluding a utopian society. Swift further ridicules European practices by citing the bitter war being fought between the Lilliputians and their kinsmen, the Blefuscans. This war is being fought because of disagreement as to the proper end on which to crack an egg. Gulliver says, “[Lilliput and Blefuscu] have…been engaged in a most obstinate war… It began…[when] the Emperor published an edict, commanding all subjects…to break the smaller end of their eggs” (40). This asinine reason for so much savagery and bloodshed is used to satirize the incessant European warfare. Swift feels that the constant wars between European powers are also being fought for equally asinine reasons. Violence due to such absurdity is yet another reason Utopia has not been achieved. By bringing Gulliver to Lilliput, Swift is able to expose various flaws in European and human society based on human pettiness. On his next outing, Gulliver travels to Brobdingnag. Here he is a fraction of the size of the inhabitants, rather than the other way around. Due to this abrupt reversal, he undergoes a complete change in perspective. Despite this change though, he continues to observe many similarities between this new society and that of the Europeans. The inhabitants of Brobdingnag, like humans, have a very high opinion of themselves. Gulliver, however, exposes this opinion to be in error. He relates their numerous physical blemishes saying, “Their skins appeared so coarse and uneven, so variously coloured, when I saw them near, with a mole here and there as broad as a trencher, and hairs hanging from it thicker than packthreads, to say nothing further concerning the rest of their persons” (117). He continues, saying, “…[A] very offensive smell came from their skins…” (117). Disparaging their education, Gulliver says, “The learning of this people is very defective…” (136). There are clearly many things wrong with their society, yet they, like humans, refuse to admit to and address them. Also like humans, the inhabitants of Brobdingnag deplore practices which differ from their own. When Gulliver tells the King of various human practices, the King responds, saying, “…I cannot but conclude that the bulk of your natives are the most pernicious race of odious little vermin ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the Earth” (133). As humans often do, the King of Brobdingnag immediately dismisses and deprecates that which is different and that which he does not understand. Through Gulliver’s journey to this land of giants, Swift reveals faults that stem from the over-inflated sense of self prevalent in human society.Gulliver’s next excursion takes him to Laputa, a floating island where the inhabitants are fanatical believers in scientific reasoning and technology. The Laputians, however, are utterly misguided in their attempt to harness the power science can provide. They conduct ludicrous experiments such as constructing buildings from the roof down and attempting to extract sunlight from vegetables. Their clothing is also adorned with scientific symbols, and their eyes pointed toward astrological signs. They literally cannot see straight. The pursuit of knowledge through science has completely overtaken their lives. Common sense has been abandoned, leaving the Laputians to pursue enlightenment blindly and stupidly. They’ve sacrificed sense for reason and lost both. Here Swift is pointing out the folly in relying solely on scientific reasoning and its inability to provide the solution for the puzzle of Utopia . Also in this land, Gulliver meets the Immortals. These Immortals do not live blessed, envied lives though. Instead, their immortality is viewed as an eternal curse, in which they are destined to live horrible, pathetic lives, utterly lacking in relief. Swift uses this example to show the foolishness in desiring eternal life. The journey to Laputa works to refute human aspirations concerning immortality and other impossibilities. Through Gulliver’s ascent to this land in the sky, Swift tells the reader to get his head out of the clouds.Gulliver’s final and most significant journey takes him to the land of the Houynhnhnms. In this exotic locale, he discovers two societies that exist side-by-side but are completely different. One society is that of the Yahoos. The Yahoos have a bestial society, ravaged by rampant problems such as cupidity, lust, and vulgarity. They are described as “odious” (246), “degenerate and brutal” (248). They are driven by uninhibited emotion and live only to fulfill their primal desires. This society illustrates one extreme of humanity. If humans were to follow their passions without regard for the consequences and morality of their actions, this is what human society would regress to. In stark contrast to the Yahoos are the Houynhnhnms. They exist in a utopian paradise free of the problems that plague man. There are no problems which cannot be peaceably and easily solved, and there is no disease. They have achieved perfection. They are, however, fundamentally different from humans; they lack passion and emotion. It is because of this lack of any intense sensation, though, that they are able to achieve perfection. Humanity is, by definition, flawed, for that which makes us human, makes us inherently imperfect. By juxtaposing these two societies, Swift is able to illustrate the extremes of society – a society in which the pursuit of paradise has been completely abandoned and one in which it has been inhumanly achieved. Each trip Gulliver takes provides the reader with further insight into the flaws of human society and the reasons for human failure to achieve a utopian ideal. Though the inhabitants of each land seem very different from humans physically, observation of their societies provides the opportunity to grasp more profound insights concerning our own. In Lilliput, the size of the inhabitants represent human pettiness; in Brobdingnag, the size of the inhabitants represent the human ego; in Laputa, the location of the island reveals our impractical aspirations; and in the land of the Houynhnhnms, the contrast between the Yahoos and the Houynhnhnms reveals the fact that perfection is the antithesis of humanity. Man possesses an ideal of perfection without realizing that that very image of paradise is simultaneously an image of the most torturous of hells. The only manner in which humanity could exist in perpetual bliss, is if humanity had no concept whatsoever of bliss. As Gulliver travels from land to land, the reasons for human failure to achieve Utopia are presented again and again, but at the end of his journeys, Swift provides the reader with the reason as to why this is so, or perhaps comes to the realization himself. Faced with a state of passionless existence as the only alternative to our flawed society, he stops criticizing that which cannot be changed and instead accepts it.
Satire in Each Book of Gulliver’s Travels
Throughout the four parts of Gulliver’s Travels, Swift employs the eight types of satire – parody, understatement, invective, irony, hyperbole, sarcasm, inversion/reversal, and wit – to add historical and thematic depth to Lemuel Gulliver’s fantastic voyage.Explaining the tensions between Liliput and Blefusco in part I, for instance, Swift writes:Which two mighty powers have, as I was going to tell you, been engaged in a most obstinate war for six and thirty moons past… During the course of these troubles, the Emperors of Blefusco did frequently expostulate by their ambassadors, accusing us of making a schism in religion, by offending against a fundamental doctrine of our great prophet Lustrog, in the fifty-fourth chapter of the Brundecral (which is their Alcoran). This, however, is thought to be a mere strain upon the text: for the words are these; That all true believers shall break their eggs at the convenient end. (Swift 85)Here, Swift uses parody to ridicule the religious schism between the Catholic and Protestant Church which permeated Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. Swift’s mockery lies in that his narrator initially validates the arguments offered by Blefuscu against Lilliput’s preferred way of breaking eggs – at the smaller end – by citing the authority of the Brundecral, equivalent to the “Alcoran”, or, more likely, the Bible. However, the reader undoubtedly recognizes the momentous religious rift created over egg-breaking as pure nonsense. By parodying England’s ecclesiastical system, namely, the Catholic-Protestant split, through the Big-Ender/Small-Ender split, he desires for the reader to recognize the ridiculousness of quarreling over religion, particularly when the argument occurs over such a minor discrepancy as which end of the egg to break, or, he infers, Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist (which is the cause for divide between Catholics and Protestants). Although himself a Catholic clergyman, Swift perceived the situation critically. By imitating the vague world of theological interpretations in the form of a rather concrete, yet ludicrous dispute that pits two empires against each other, Swift reveals to the reader the ridiculousness of the religious battles of the British Isles. The above passage at once exaggerates and undermines the Catholic-Protestant schism by drawing an analogy between a seemingly formidable disunion and a trivial problem of eating habits, in this way heightening satire in Gulliver’s Travels.To expand the satirical value of the novel, Swift uses parody once again to imitate and poke fun at not only religious, but also political aspects of England and Ireland (the two being notoriously intertwined in 17th and 18th century Europe). For instance, he writes:I was diverted with none so much as that of rope-dancers, performed upon a slender white thread, extended about two foot, and twelve inches from the ground…This diversion is only practiced by those persons who are candidates for great employments, and high favor, at Court…Flimnap, the treasurer, is allowed to cut a caper on the straight rope as least an inch higher than any lord in the whole Empire. (73-74)In describing the jests of the “rope-dancers,” Swift actually parodies the antics of candidates running for office for the Court of England. He points out the great mastery involved in executing jumps and somersaults on the rope in order to emphasize the schemes of intrigue and deception carried out by candidates in order to win the favor of the King, and thus, an ascent to a position of power. Swift uses the name “Flimnap” to perhaps craftily allude to George II’s prominent Whig prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole, who at one point in his political career served, appropriately, as first lord of the treasury in the government1. Although the games of the Lilliputians appear bizarre and laughable, Swift’s purpose entails exposing the corruption and fraud that ran rampant through the English Monarchy, specifically during the reign of George II. 2 For instance, the term “caper” carries a connotation of thievery and deceit, and this precisely explains Walpole’s – and indeed many other British office holders’ – ability to obtain and maintain power by resorting to what were essentially political contortions. In fact, despite George II’s allegiance to the Tories, he never fired Walpole, a proud Whig, due to strong favoritism; thus, Swift mocks the political institution in this way.Also in Part I, Swift uses the satirical device of understatement. Introducing his tale, Gulliver takes note of the political structure of Lilliput, at one point reporting on tyrannical monarchs. The reader cannot help but acknowledge the similarities between Lilliput and Gulliver’s homeland, England, when he informs the reader that the Emperor of Lilliput proposes the punishment of removing Gulliver’s eyes, a conviction viewed by the Lilliputians as minor and actually merciful. It stands as a gross understatement when one of the king’s court comes to warn Gulliver of his forthcoming arraignment for treason, revealing to Gulliver that:[His] majesty, in consideration of [Gulliver’s] services, and pursuant to his own merciful disposition, would please to spare [his] life, and only give orders to put out both [his] eyes…to signify the great lenity and favour of his Majesty…which his Majesty doth not question [he] will gratefully and humbly submit to; and twenty of his Majesty’s surgeons will attend, in order to see the operation well performed, by discharging very sharp-pointed arrows into the balls of [his] eyes as [he] lay on the ground. (106-107).The Secretary informs Gulliver without particular passion or surprise, and in fact rather nonchalantly, suggesting that such a sentence serves as a commonplace, even lenient penalty. To this, Gulliver then satirically states: “…I was so ill a judge of things, that I could not discover the lenity or favor of this sentence, but conceived it (perhaps erroneously) rather to be rigorous than gentle,” (109) and later, “[Had] I then known the nature of princes and ministers…I should with great alacrity and readiness have submitted to so easy a punishment” (110). Clearly the loss of one’s eyes cannot be taken lightly; the threat of not being able to see, not to mention the physical torment of having one’s eyeballs punctured by sharp objects, would provoke anyone to outrage and panic. However, the Lilliputians regard such a punishment without protest. This can be attributed to the fact that in the land of Lilliput, much like in England, tyranny rules. Swift implies that irrational monarchs, fueled by their own whims, restrain the masses with the threat of violence and at the same time assume that their subjects will “gratefully and humbly submit” to them. In employing such an understatement, he comments not only on the brutality, but also on the sense of divinity that tyrannical monarchs generally permit themselves, thus satirically criticizing English politics.In Book II, A Voyage to Brobdingnag, Swift employs the satirical element of invective to voice his disapproval of the British Empire. After explaining the history of Great Britain to the King of Brobdingnag, Gulliver explains that the King:[Was] perfectly astonished… protesting it was only a heap of conspiracies, rebellions, murders, massacres, revolutions, banishments, and very worst effects that avarice, faction, hypocrisy, perfidiousness, cruelty, rage, madness, hatred, envy, lust, malice, and ambition could produce. (172)Swift relays his criticism through the King’s extreme impression of England, one which he expresses using a barrage of words with negative connotations. Although the King’s overly harsh opinion comes from a man unfamiliar with the country, Swift intends to show precisely that from an objective observer’s standpoint, England appears as a country historically corrupt.At another point in chapter six, the King states, “[By] what I have gathered from your own relation… I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives, to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth” (173). Through the King’s affirmation, Swift rather blatantly communicates that despite the facade of grandeur and dignity the British uphold in their history and affairs, they remain a generally abject and dishonorable people to him. Through the King’s reaction to Gulliver’s account of his motherland and his people, Swift stresses that just as the Lilliputians seem disagreeable to Gulliver, so, too does Gulliver and his race with respect to the Brobdingnagians. Furthermore, by showing the way in which people of varying sizes view England, Swift implies that despite a nation like Great Britain’s perception of superiority (as created by its political or military prowess, successful expansion, or general assertion of power), its may nonetheless be perceived as rather “odious” or morally flawed, when viewed from the side by others such as the Irish or the poor.Although subtle, the irony in A Voyage to Brobdingnag surfaces in several notable examples, one of which occurs when Swift states:[The] beggars, watching their opportunity, crowded to the sides of the coach, and gave me the most horrible spectacles that ever a European eye beheld. There was a woman with cancer in her breast, swelled to a monstrous size, full of holes, in two or three of which I could have easily crept, and covered my whole body. There was a fellow with a wen in his neck, larger than five woolpacks, and another with a couple of wooden legs, each about twenty foot high. But the most hateful sight of all was the lice crawling on their clothes… (151-2).The situational irony in this passage presents itself in the size of these beggars and the other inhabitants of Brobdingnag. However, the beggars depicted abate the idealized and seemingly perfect existence of the Brobdingnagians. By portraying the wretched beggars as being such immense and grotesque creatures, Swift comments on the pervasiveness of poverty in England and Ireland. Yet this statement becomes even more ironic because the King of Brobdingnag condemns the English as “dimunitive insects”, refusing to acknowledge that his kingdom, too, has many ills to improve, such as the beggars on the streets. In addition, the beggars ambush the coach, flashing their big, nauseating abnormalities and diseases unabashedly in Gulliver’s face – they are impossible for him to miss. In this way, Swift intends to burn into the reader’s consciousness the horrid reality of the poverty that plagues the cities of England and Ireland, something that the literate person reading Gulliver’s Travels during the 18th century may have perhaps been too removed to comprehend.An instance of verbal irony occurs during Gulliver’s conversation with the King, in which Gulliver states that”[Great] allowances should be given to a King who lives wholly secluded from the rest of the World, and must therefore be altogether unacquainted with the manners and customs that most prevail in other nations: the want of which knowledge will ever produce many prejudices, and a certain narrowness of thinking, from which we and the politer Countries of Europe are wholly exempted.” (174)This statement presents itself as verbal irony because the sheer size of Great Britain and “the politer Countries of Europe” makes it impossible for them to be “wholly exempt” from prejudice and narrow-mindedness. On a larger level, the passage above exemplifies verbal irony because by making such a rash overgeneralization about Europeans, the narrator, in effect, stands guilty of the very ignorance he professes Europeans do not possess. Thus, Swift satirically hints at the ignorance and perceived superiority of the British.Book III, entitled A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Glubbdubdrib, Luggnagg, and Japan, contains hyperbole, characterized by the use of exaggeration for emphasis or effect, to satirize both the European way of thought and the stifling nature of Great Britain. He exaggerates the preposterous theories that pervaded English culture throughout the Age of Rationalism. For example, Gulliver takes note of how the floating island of Laputa punishes other, rebellious islands, stating:[The] king has two methods of reducing them to obedience. The first… course is, by keeping the island hovering over such a town, and the lands about it, whereby he can deprive them of the benefit of the sun and the rain, and consequently afflict the inhabitants with dearth and diseases: and if the crime deserve it, they are at the same time pelted from above with great stones, against which they have no defence [sic]…while the roofs of their houses are beaten to pieces. But if they still continue obstinate… he proceeds to the last remedy, by letting the island drop directly upon their heads, which makes a universal destruction both of houses and men. (214)Swift intentionally furnishes the island of Laputa with the special capacity to float, in this way suggesting that the Laputians and their king – who has never been to the world he governs below – disengage themselves from society. Thus, Swift emphasizes the idea that by concentrating solely on the abstract, theoretical aspects of problems and investing their energies in unnecessary scientific advances, they ignore the practical concerns of the wretched people below. The author voices his distaste with European governments that neglect poverty and social ills in his fantastic account of the island of Laputa. Precisely, England’s treatment of the Irish surfaces in Laputa’s excessive punishment of Balnibarbi; just as Laputa restricts sunlight and rain from reaching Balnibarbi, so, too did England restrict Irish trade, leaving the country barren and the people impoverished. In this example of hyperbole, Swift exaggerates the physical extremity of Balnibarbi’s punishment by describing, in great detail, the overkill that results at the hands of Laputa – the island descends, as though signaling the apocalypse, physically crushing revolting masses. The image evoked by Swift’s embellishment, one of intense suffering, echoes the struggle of the Irish to rid themselves of England’s oppressive presence. Another example of hyperbole occurs when Swift expresses that “When parties in a state are violent, [a professor] offered a wonderful contrivance to reconcile them…Let the occiputs thus cut off [from party leaders] be interchanged, applying each to the head of his opposite party man” (234). Clearly, the professor’s proposal to join half-brains in order to settle political rifts, among others mentioned, sounds simply outrageous. However, Swift’s intention in exposing the ludicrous plans of scientists and philosophers through exaggeration lies in satirizing the European preoccupation with theory in the eighteenth century. While combining two minds may, theoretically, work, in practice such an act will probably kill both men involved. The reader recognizes this as extreme and excessive, hence the hyperbole.In addition to hyperbole, Swift uses sarcasm liberally in Book III. At one point, when Gulliver makes the acquaintance of numerous legendary men such as of Homer and Alexander the Great, he realizes that the history surrounding such notable figures is often manipulated and falsified in the interest of upholding an illusion of grandeur. Disenchanted by this new information, Gulliver remarks:[But] when someone confessed they owed their greatness and wealth to sodomy or incest; others to the prostituting of their own wives and daughters; others to the betraying of their country or their prince; some to poisoning, more to the perverting of justice in order to destroy the innocent: I hope I may be pardoned if these discoveries inclined me a little to abate of that profound veneration which I am naturally apt to pay to persons of high rank, who ought to be treated with the utmost respect due to their sublime dignity, by us their inferiors. (245-246)Here, the reader witnesses Swift’s use of biting sarcasm, as presented in a situation in which the protagonist denounces the follies of historical records and the sense of superiority such “heroes” possess over the common man. Swift portrays an array of appalling characters revered by a society ignorant of the ways in which such figures achieved fame. Gulliver catalogues some of the sordid offences of these men, such as “sodomy or incest” and “perverting of justice in order to destroy the innocent” (125). When he then mockingly apologizes for his disgust, affirming that all high-ranking figures “ought to be treated with the utmost respect due to their sublime dignity, by us their inferiors,” the reader can clearly detect the bitterness in his tone. Undoubtedly, Swift’s reproach for the demand placed on commoners, to honor glorified, arrogant – and all too often corrupt – superiors, and, at the same time, these commoners’ flawed perceptions, can be seen in his harsh sarcasm.Sarcasm also presents itself in Swift’s mockery of women. When discussing the habits of women in Laputa, Gulliver reveals that “[they] may perhaps pass with the reader rather for a European or English story, than for one of a country so remote. But he may please to consider, that the caprices of womankind are not limited by any climate or nation, and that they are much more uniform than can be easily imagined” (208). The narrator first exhibits sarcasm when mentioning that his reader may mistake such a description of women “rather for a European or English story,” thus mocking English society. Furthermore, Swift intends for his humorous displeasure with what he perceives as women’s fickle, flighty nature to appeal to his reader – primarily a male reader – as evinced through his playful statement that “he may please to consider,” (that female character “[is] not limited by any climate…”) (208). Thus, the narrator’s less than amiable comments about both commanding figures and women epitomize the satirical element of sarcasm, or bitter, witty statements intended to insult.Finally, in Book IV, A Voyage to the Houyhnhnms Swift uses the satirical elements of reversal/inversion and wit. The book contains perhaps the most profound reversal of roles and ideas. In this book, Gulliver travels to a land in which filthy, detestable human-like creatures, called the Yahoos, are governed by virtuous, rational horses called Houyhnhnms. Thus, an obvious role-reversal exists, as man, who represent the most advanced, reasonable animal, submits to the dominance of a horse, a lesser animal. As Swift states, “[Our English] countrymen would hardly think it probable, that a Houyhnhnm should be the presiding creature of a nation, and a Yahoo the brute” (285). Clearly, Gulliver cannot comprehend this inversion of power, and this holds true for the Houyhnhnms also. For instance, Gulliver’s ability to mimic and eventually master their language astounds the Houyhnhnms, who assume that Gulliver, who otherwise resembles a Yahoo, possesses the same mental capacity. In fact, at one point, Gulliver states, “I asserted that the Yahoos were the only governing animals in my country, which my master said was altogether past his conception” (286). Swift creates such a dramatic role-reversal in order to emphasize the inherent animalism in human beings. The Yahoos do not have distinct social classes and, in this way, Swift implies that all humans, even the royal and wealthy who deem themselves superior, cannot escape their innate brutality. Indeed, the Yahoos champion malice, cowardice, greed and other prominent follies of mankind. Furthermore, the Houyhnhnm race, the epitome of virtue and benevolence, and the Yahoos, exemplars of evil and corruption, exist worlds away from each other, yet so close. Gulliver, then, seems wedged between the two; thus, Swift suggests that although humans have the ability to attain the virtue of the Houyhnhnms – or at least, to make such an attempt – they opt instead to remain in the realm of the Yahoos. In any case, Swift’s outrageous reversal attacks human nature, and in this way, serves to shock readers into self-examination and personal reform.Speaking of the governing body of England, Gulliver explains, “The palace of a Chief Minister is a seminary to breed up others in his own trade: the pages, the lackeys, and porter, by imitating their master, become Ministers of State…and learn to excel in the three principal ingredients, of insolence, lying, and bribery” (303). In this instance, Swift strategically employs the phrase “breed up” to serve a dual purpose. Firstly, it literally signifies that by providing many menial court positions for young men, the Chief Minister’s palace jumpstarts their political careers, facilitating their ascent, usually undeservingly, to higher positions. More importantly, the rather coarse phrase “breed up” also connects to Swift’s implication of the savagery and animalism of humanity, which, according to him, is particularly prominent in the political arena. Swift’s clever play on the word “breed” reveals his denouncement of Britain’s governing body, which he progresses in his harsh generalization that prospective politicians “learn to excel in… insolence, lying, and bribery” by “imitating their master,” as if apes (303).In another portion of Book IV, Swift criticizes the Catholic-Protestant division in his assertion, “Neither are any wars so furious and bloody, or of so long continuance, as those occasioned by difference in opinion, especially if it be in things indifferent” (292). Swift once again uses wit in the form of a subtle play on words, this time skillfully connecting “difference” and “indifferent” in a statement tinged with a sense of melancholy humor. Swift certainly could have substituted “unimportant” or “of no consequence,” yet by repeating the word “different” in the later portion of the sentence, he lends it a rhythm and cohesiveness. In creating such a connection between the two words, he stresses the absurdity of arguing over petty, often negligible, discepancies, as the Catholics and Protestants quarrel over “[W]hether flesh be bread, or bread be flesh… whether whistling be a vice or a virtue… what is the best colour for a coat, whether black, white, red, or gray; and whether it should be long or short, narrow or wide, dirty or clean…” (292). Thus, Swift’s cynicism toward both politics and religion can be observed through his use of the satirical element of wit.Therefore, after assessing the four Parts of Jonanthan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, the reader can readily see the large extent to which the author uses satire in its eight forms in order to add a new level of meaning to his classic novel.