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Gulliver's Travels - Satire


Gulliver's Travels was written during an era of change known as the Reformation Period. The way this book is written suggests some of the political themes from that time period, including the well-known satire. These themes are displayed throughout Gulliver's Travels, and even sometimes reflect upon today's society.

Many things in the book Gulliver's Travels prove that it was set in the Restoration Period. Some of the ways you can tell this are: the clothing, the speech, the governments, and of course, the lack of technology. But these things do not prove that the book was written in the Restoration Era. Any writer from any time period after the Reformation Period could write a book similar to Gulliver's Travels, which was set in the Reformation Period. What sets Swift's masterpiece apart and actually proves it was written in the time when many things were changing is the use of satire and political ideas relating to the era.

One of the forms of political satire is embodied in the first culture that is met by Gulliver. The Lilliputians are the embodiment of England of the time period. The Lilliputians are small people who control Gulliver through means of threats. "...when in an instant I felt above a hundred arrows discharged into my left hand, which pricked my like so many needles; and besides they shot another flight into the air, as we do bombs in Europe" (Swift, 24). England was a small country that had Europe (represented by Gulliver) and many other parts of the world under their control. This example of comparing the political situation in Europe at the time to the story is further demonstrated by using Gulliver against the Blefescan nation, much like a European nation would use a political ally. Another way that Swift uses satire against the society of the time is through the medium of science. During the Reformation period, people were beginning to questions superstitions and theories by using science to explain things. The most famous of these explanations was when Halley discovered that a comet (later named for him) made a predictable orbit around the sun. During the voyage to Laputa, Gulliver commends the Laputians on their study of comets, even saying that "...it is much to be wished that their observations were made public, whereby the theory of comets, which at present is very lame and defective, might be brought to the same perfection with other parts of astronomy."(Swift, 190) But then, on his voyage to Lagodo, he emphasizes on the multiple scientists engaging in trivial experiments such as trying to extract sunlight from a cucumber. By this passage, Swift means to attach the scientific community's need to analyze everything, as they did at that time, mainly to prove superstitions (and religious worries) wrong. All of these examples help to prove that Gulliver's Travels was written during the time period in which it was set.

This book not only reflects upon the time of the Reformation, but also can be interpreted to relate to some modern day issues as well. The best example, in my mind, of this is portrayed in the first section of Gulliver's Travels. There is a direct connection between the story and the Middle East problems. In the story, Gulliver is attacked by the Lilliputians' arrows. Then he proceeds to help them against the Blefescan nation for political favor, and continues to remain a very imposing threat to anyone who would attack the Lilliputians. America is much like Gulliver. We were attacked by Israel in 1967, and during the attack one of our ships and killed American troops "accidentally"(U.S.S. Liberty), which didn't hurt us overall, and we continued to side with Israel, and also, like Gulliver, remaining an imposing ally.

Gulliver's Travels had many examples of life in the Reformation Era and even pertained to an issue in today's world. Many books also reflect upon issues of the time and current day issues. Shakespeare's works are some good examples; but that is for another essay I am sure. Gulliver's Travels is one of those books that will remain a classic because it portrays some universal issues that will continue to have effects on people's lives in the future.

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