Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World

Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, better known as Gulliver’s Travels, was written by Jonathan Swift in 1726. Much of the material reflects his political experiences of the preceding decade. Swift is considered the greatest satirist in the English language. He was accepted into Trinity College in Dublin University at age fourteen. He then attended Oxford where he received a M.A. In 1702, he received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Dublin University. In 1694, he was ordained in the church of Ireland. Swift wrote pamphlets for the Whig party. After continued conflicts, he switched to the more conservative Tory part. Swift’s main goal was to have a high-powered seat in the church. The top position he gained was the Deanery of St. Patrick’s, Dublin. He then returned back to Ireland.
Gulliver’s Travels is a four-part novel describing Gulliver’s four voyages to fictional exotic lands. The travels reflect conflict in British society in the early 18th century. The masterpiece reveals and criticizes sins and corruption of British ruling class and their cruel exploitation towards people of Britain and neighboring countries in the capital-accumulation period of British history. Very few people have actually read the entire novel in it’s original publication. The story was modified throughout the years without the satire, coarse language and lewd scenes, and transformed into a children’s book. The watered-down version is very popular still today in children’s literature. There have also been several films made based on the story, again mostly aimed at children.
In Book I, Gulliver is involved in a shipwreck. He then hitches a ride from six men in a rowboat. The rowboat capsizes, and Gulliver is forced to swim to shore. He arrives at the land of Lilliput. The Lilliputians are tiny little people and capture Gulliver while he’s asleep. Swift’s satirical attacks on humanity are not as apparent in Book I. The disgust he arguably shows for humans is not apparent yet. A series of amusing and ridiculous situations in this part lead readers into a relaxed atmosphere. Verbal irony comes alive in Chapter III. Swift ridicules the Lilliputians’ arrogance and ignorance by describing how mathematicians in Lilliput measure Gulliver’s height by the help of a quadrant. “Having taken the height of my body by the help of a quadrant and finding it to exceed theirs in the proportion of twelve to one, they concluded from the similarity of their bodies, that mine must contain at least 1728 of theirs, and consequently would require as much food as was necessary to support that number of Lilliputians.” Swift ridicules, “by which the reader may conceive an idea of the ingenuity of that people, as well as the prudent and exact economy of so great a prince.” He makes excellent use of the technique of verbal irony in this laughable, thought provoking, and seemingly ordinary ironic narration to achieve satirical effects.
Another attempt of verbal irony is in Chapter V, beginning with a ridiculous conflict between Lilliput and Blefuscu over how to crack an egg. Gulliver depicts the argument with total seriousness. The tone that Gulliver sets is serious, but the conflict only gets more laughable and ridiculous. Jonathan Swift expects readers to understand the parallels between Gulliver and European history. An argument, as simple and ridiculous as how to crack an egg, can lead to a war.
Political issues and humanity are Swift’s satire agenda in Book II. It is apparent that Swift begins to express his discontent over Europe as the most dominant power in the world. Swift writes in this Book, about Gulliver’s travels during this time period and when England was rising in power with its formidable fleet. Gulliver adventures to Brobdingnag and does not have a pleasant time. The farmer almost tramples him, and the family virtually enslaves him and makes him perform tricks for paying visitors. Swift uses this as an example of how Europeans were always quick to make money and use whoever is necessary to better themselves.
Gulliver’s size has reversed in Brobdingnag and he is a tiny human. In the first journey, he was a giant. Swift uses the difference to express differences in morality. Gulliver was an ordinary man compared to the ruthless political midgets in Lilliput. Now he remains an ordinary man, but the Brobdingnagians are men of strong moral compass. When tossed into a land of morality, Gulliver’s ordinariness is exposed for its weakness. Gulliver is revealed to be a very proud man who accepts the madness of European politics, parties, and society. Swift praises the Brobdingnagians, but he does not intend for us to think they were perfect humans. Their virtues are not impossible for one to attain, but because it takes so much maturing to reach the stature of a moral giant, very few humans actually achieve it. Gulliver tells the King of his homeland and its government, and the King is in misbelief. “I cannot 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.” Swift is directly mocking the English government and using the King as his own voice against Gulliver. In Book I, Swift was more subtle in his satire about the government. However, in Book II Swift is very direct with his accusations of the English government.
Johnathan Swift’s focus in Book III is directed at academics and science. Most of this section consists of descriptions of impractical scientific experiments and workings. Gulliver lands in Laputa, and unlike the previous lands he has traversed, power is not based on physical human size but instead through technological skill. The government floats over the top of the kingdom. This represents the distance between the hierarchical government and the people they serve. The King has never actually been down below to the people and is not aware of the problems they face. Swift also uses examples to recommend the theory that science is not promoted for a productive reason and is actually a waste. This dramatic irony is used to convince the reader that the people are not benefiting from the scientific projects and the government is backing the scientist. Swift believed that the educational and scientific projects being worked on did not have any value. The Royal Society of London was very upcoming with scientists. The scientists were constantly working on new projects, most of which were not successful. Swift did not have much respect for the teachings and outcomes of these scientists.
In the last part of Gulliver’s Travels, Book IV, Swift uses his satire to share his views on society and humankind. Gulliver lands on the island of Houyhnhnm Land. The Houyhnhnms’ are an elite equestrian race. The Houyhnhnms’ are said to live simple lives. They are devoted to logic and reason. They are of integrity and abide by the fair laws in which they create. They are not evil or greedy. They live by their own golden rude, Cultivate Reason. Their society flows so perfectly, that they do not understand a lie. Their only word for evil Yahoo. They Yahoos are a primitive species, which Gulliver does not accept as human. Although they do appear to be human, they behave as animals. They are disgustingly dirty, and they eat a meat and garbage diet. The Yahoos are very animalistic and are naturally vicious. They represent the most crude and corrupt of mankind’s primal nature. The Yahoos view humans very strongly. They desire power and riches and tempted by the effects of lust, intemperance, malice, and envy. Gulliver had become accustomed the ways of the Houyhnhmns. Swift uses this show how humans treat each of cultural differences. Swift used extreme differences to open eyes to the cruel and disturbing ways society looks at someone different from themselves. Gulliver does not see any similarities between himself and the Yahoos. He lacks the acceptance to see himself as any type of Yahoo. Gulliver instead reasons with trying to see himself as a horse. He goes through an identity crisis where he does not want to return to humankind. He thinks his family back home are like the Yahoos. However, the Houyhnhnms believe that Gulliver is a type of Yahoo. This leads Gulliver seeing himself as one who shares similarities with both the Houyhnhmns and the Yahoos. Swift uses this to show that humans do not take the time to gather what is around them to find power in anything but their own desires. Once Gulliver arrives home, he has no desire to be there. He has witnessed all of the different types of societies. He no longer feels proud to be human. After wallowing in his sorrows, he decides to love his family. He realizes that life is about viewing every side. He also realizes it is okay to be more open and understanding, but to also be proud of where you are from. It is okay to be prideful of your home, but do not let it shelter you away from all of the diversity the world has to offer.
In Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift tries to push the readers imagination. The story is a strong satire to make society view things from a different perspective. The lessons throughout Gulliver’s journey opens up how diverse human nature and society can be. It sets up the structure of modern society while revealing all of the flawed ways in which it is controlled.
Gulliver’s Travels was a controversial work when it was first published. It was not until almost ten years later that the entire book was printed the way Swift intended it to be. Later in life, Swift seemed to become even more bitter of humankind.