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Irony, Ambiguity, Symbols, and Symbolism in Gulliver's Travels Essay

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Use of Irony, Ambiguity and Symbolism, in Gulliver's Travels

 
    Although it appears simple and straightforward on the surface, a mere

travelogue intended solely for the amusement of children, Gulliver's Travels, by

Jonathan Swift, proves, upon closer examination, to be a critical and insightful

work satirizing the political and social systems of eighteenth-century England.

Through frequent and successful employment of irony, ambiguity and symbolism,

Swift makes comments addressing such specific topics as current political

controversies as well as such universal concerns as the moral degeneration of

man.  While he incorporates them subtly early in the novel, these observations

and criticisms eventually progress to a point where they may shock or offend

even the most unsuspecting reader.  In order to witness this evolution of

presentation, one need only observe the development of the work's central

character, Captain Lemuel Gulliver, as Swift has designed his novel in such a

way that, as his aspersions harshen and intensify, so do Gulliver's actions and

attitudes.

 

     For instance, in book one, "A Voyage to Lilliput", when Gulliver finds

himself lost in a world one-twelfth the size of his own, he proves himself to be

quite naive and impressionable.  Although he is simply too large to perceive

them in detail, Gulliver judges the country's inhabitants he meets to be as

perfect and innocent as their toylike appearances.  He refers to the Lilliputian

emperor, a being not even six inches high, as "His Imperial Majesty" and blindly

agrees to perform any demanded service, even though he could easily overpower

the tiny natio...


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throughout the story in the form of irony and satire, Gulliver himself offers a

solution to his situation at the close of the novel.  He realizes that there is

little he can do about being human; he simply must learn to live with himself.

To achieve this, he suggests looking in a mirror as often as possible, not only

so that he might learn to bear the sight of his own person but also so that he

may be constantly reminded  of those shortcomings he seeks so desperately to

overcome.

 

Works Cited and Consulted

Backscheider, Paula R. A Being More Intense: A Study of the Prose Works of Buynan, Swift, and Defoe. New York: AMS Press, 1984.

Carnochan, W. B. Lemuel Gulliver's Mirror for Man. Berkley: University of California Press, 1968.

Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver's Travels. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

 

 


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