Moral And Physical Power In The Novel Gulliver’s Travels

May 18, 2022 by Essay Writer

What would one do if they suddenly found themselves on a strange island inhabited by people six inches tall? Would one rule them, or simply submit to them? This is the exact situation that Lemuel Gulliver in the novel ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ finds himself in. In part one of this novel, the difference between having physical power and moral power is apparent.

To begin with, in chapter one of ‘Gulliver’s Travels,’ Lemuel finds himself restrained to the ground, not being able to get up. When he struggles to break free many tiny arrows hit him in the face and hands. After this, he notices many people six inches tall and for some reason, they treat him with respect and even bring him food and water. Even after their kindness, he confesses that ‘He was often tempted, while they were passing backwards and forwards on his body, to seize forty or fifty of the first that came in his reach, and dash them against the ground’. The thing that stopped him from doing this horrible action is his morals. He knew that they saw him as being submissive and killing them now would have been an immoral thing to do. Another example of Lemuel’s moral power is when he convinced the ministry not to destroy and enslave Blefuscu, the enemies of the Lilliputians. He stated, ‘that he would never be an instrument of bringing a free and brave people into slavery’. Even though he knew he was going against the emperor and his wishes, that didn’t matter to him, he stayed true to his what he believed and even convinced the rest of the ministry not to destroy the people of Blefuscu. This decision, he made, could have had great consequences on his life, but that didn’t stop him from doing what he was right.

Unlike moral power, physical power is having great strength. Lemuel in this novel shows many feats of physical power over the inhabitants of both the Lilliputians and the people of Blefuscu. One example of his strength is when he was preparing to defeat a fleet of Blefuscus ships that were about to attack Liliput. Without explaining his plan to anone he began his work by obtaining the strongest cable they possessed. He states that the cable was about as thick as packthread and the bars of the length and size of a knitting–needle. He trebled the cable to make it stronger, and for the same reason he twisted three of the iron bars together, bending the extremities into a hook.

To the reader, this might not sound like a great feat of strength, but to the Lilliputians, it is almost unbelievable. Lemuel managed to twist and turn their strongest cable like it is nothing ad even made more. After this is when the reader can see his greatest achievement using his strength. He planned to swim to Belefuscudian territory and hook as many ships together with the strong cord that he made. He recalled that

he resolutely cut with his knife the cables that fastened the anchors, receiving about two hundred shots in his face and hands; then he took up the knotted end of the cables, to which his hooks were tied, and with great ease drew fifty of the enemy’s largest men of war after him. (Swift 57).

This accomplishment was so impressive to the people of Liliput, that they praised him for it. They did not expect Lemuel to do this deed for them. All they asked of him was to destroy the ships, but instead, he brought them back, which were indeed valuable to the emperor. This chapter shows the importance of being physically strong. If Lemuel hadn’t used his physical power, then the Blefuscudians would have destroyed lilliput and its people.

By now, the difference between having moral power and physical power should be clear. Even though Lemuel Gulliver showed both, the two could not be any more different. Moral power has to do more with the mind. It is the ability to stay true to one’s beliefs without caring for the consequences. Or as Jal Mehta and Christopher Winship put it, ‘Moral power is the degree to which an actor, by virtue of his or her perceived moral stature, is able to persuade others to adopt a particular belief or take a particular course of action'(pg. 2). Again Gulliver showed this when he spared the lives of two of the Lilliputians that shot him, he could have killed them easily for their wrongdoing but decided to spare them instead. Physical power, on the other hand, is having brute force, it is the ability to move something from one place to another. This again is shown when gulliver lifts the islanders like it is nothing, or when he rips out many trees to make a path. Swift in this novel, does an amazing job of showing both moral and physical power through Lemuel. Both are not easy to accomplish, but yet, Lemuel does them without a second thought.

In the novel “Gulliver’s Travels”, a man named Lemuel Gulliver finds himself on an island inhabited by many tiny people. Here one can see his struggles as he decides to submit under their rule and to even help them with their struggles. Jonathan Swift in this novel does an amazing job of showing the reader the difference between moral power and physical power through the main character.

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