Swift's "Gulliver's Travels": A social satire
“Gulliver’s Travels” is a great work of social satire. Swift’s age was an age of smug complacency. Corruption was rampant and the people were still satisfied. Thus, Jonathan Swift tears the veil of smug complacency off which had blinded the people to realities. In “Gulliver’s Travels”, there is a satire on politics, human physiognomy, intellect, manners and morality.
In the first voyage to Lilliput, Swift satirizes on politics and political tactics practiced inEngland through Lilliputians, the dwarfs of six inches height. He satirizes the manner in which political offices were awarded by English King in his time. Flimnap, the Treasurer, ...view middle of the document...
Gulliver gives us his reaction to the coarseness and ugliness of human body. When Gulliver gives an account, to the King of Brobdingnag, of the life in his own country, the trade, the wars, the conflicts in religion, the political parties, the king remarks that the history of Gulliver's country seems to be a series of conspiracies, rebellions, murders, revolutions and banishments etc. Kind condemns the fatal use of gunpowder and the books written on the act of governing. King mocks at the human race of which Gulliver is the agent.
“The most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.”
Swift here ridicules human pride and pretension. The sight is, indeed, horrible and disgusting. Among the beggars is a woman with a cancer in her breast.
“It stood prominent six feet, and could not be less than sixteen in circumference … spots and pimples that nothing could appear more nauseous.”
There is a man with a huge tumor in his neck; another beggar has wooden legs. But the most hateful sight is that of the lice crawling on their clothes. This description reinforces Swift views of the ugliness and foulness of the human body.
In the third voyage to Laputa, there is a satire on human intellect, human mind and on science, philosophy and mathematics. However, his satire is not very bitter. We are greatly amused by the useless experiments and researches, which are going on at the academy of Projectors in Lugado. Here scientists wants to extract sunbeams out of cucumbers, to convert human excrement into its original food, to build house from the roof downward to the foundation, to obtain silk from cobwebs and to produce books on various subjects by the use of machine without having to exert one’s brain.
“Their heads were inclined either to the right or to the left, one of their eyes turned inward, and the other directly up to Zenith.”
Swift amuses us by making a fun of the people whose sole interests are music and geometry.
“They made a lot of theories but practically nill.”
Swift here ridicules scientists, academics, planers, intellectual, in fact, all people who proceed, only according to theory which are useless when they come to actual practice. He satirizes historian and literary critics though Gulliver’s interviews with the ghosts of famous dead. The point f satire is that historian often distorts facts and literary critics often misinterpret great authors like Homer and Aristotle.
In the fourth voyage to...