“GULLIVER’S TRAVELS” a Satire
Jonathan Swift, an Anglo-Irish writer, was born in Dublin on the 30th October 1667. he was one of the greatest satirists of the universal literature. His pamphlets have a stinging sarcasm through which he accused moral-political vices or religious ones (ex. “A Tale of a Tub”, ”A Meditation upon a Broomstick”) or pamphlets which defend the Irish cause (“The Drapiers Letters”). His fame was brought by “GULLIVER’S TRAVELS
”. This is a realistic parody of social dynamic, remarkable for the greatness of its metaphors, consciousness of vision and its style.
GULLIVER’S TRAVELS is a satire in four parts as the author himself called it. In the first pages of the book we are told that Gulliver began his voyages
as a ship surgeon and afterwards as captain of other ships. The four parts of the book represent four voyages: A Voyage to Lilliput; A Voyage to Brobdingnag; A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Glubbdubdrib, Luggnagg and Japan and A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms. Each of them represents a different type of society and in each of them the object of the author’s irony is different.
The first trip satirises the moral and spiritual pettiness of humanity, revealing to the reader the foolish reasons for starting a war between two countries that were once good friends
; the absurd rules of society. This six-inch tall people of Book I reveal themselves to be as small morally as they are physically. The revelation of their pettiness comes gradually to the reader. Gulliver’s hosts gossip meanly about each other; they fight over such trivial things as which end of an egg should be broken first; and their king is angry when Gulliver refuses to help him bring a neighbour country into slavery.
In this book, number I, we encounter satire on travel books and travellers. Swift is mainly protesting against the ridiculous travellers who report absolutely everything about his trip.
Book II “A Voyage to Brobdingnag” is a satire on the wickedness and vanity of mankind. Gulliver, just recently big in a land of little people, is now little in a land of giants. Although it might be too much to say that in this way Swift prepared the reader to expect that Gulliver won’t live very well in this country, judged by the moral norms of big people; but that is in fact what happens. When the judgement is made, it appears that Gulliver’s race is one of “little odious vermin”. Nonetheless, our hero yet has saving graces, he is still a fascinating reporter, he is fascinatingly loyal to his country; he is resourceful and well intentioned. But, when seen through the eyes of the people from Brobdingnag, he appears somewhat ridiculous.
In the second voyage, both the human pride in physical appearance is attacked through Gulliver’s perspective of the Brobdingnagians; and Gulliver’s own pride in himself and his country is reduced to ridiculousness as Gulliver becomes the object of comic satire. Gulliver’s offer of the secret of gunpowder shows that he is a typical member of his race. This episode concludes with “the shocking demonstration of what man’s inhumanity is capable of”.
The trip to Laputa and the other far off countries satirises the unsociable behaviour, imaginativeness and pedantry of people. A specific target of Swift’s satire in this part is the idea of immortality in out world many people regard as a goal in their lives but he shows it to us in a totally different light. In Book III, Gulliver presents people who are immortal, these are the Strulbrugs. In reference to the Strulbrugs Swift insists that, since the forces of nature bring decay, it is better to die before these forces condemn the body to an old age that grows increasingly disgusting and horrible.
The account implies gratitude that nature, which every second causes us to rot, is allowed no more time than it normally has. He sees this as a reason for thanksgiving that death normally wins the race against rot. Other targets Swift’s satire had in Book III are the useless researches carried on in the Science Academy; the fact that people from Laputa considered themselves a very intelligent people (or the most intelligent people); the unsociable behaviour those people had and the fact that he was left on his own and after that forced to deny his nationality and pretend to be Dutch in order to get home safe.
The last trip to the country of the Houyhnhnms, or better said the country of the wise horses, is bound to draw a conclusion, a satirical one on the entire human society. Critics claim that this last trip is the one which best expresses Swift’s direct attack on mankind. In this trip Gulliver meets two species of creatures, the wise horses who are able to do everything a human is able to do in real life; and the Yahoos, which resemble a lot to the humans but which are primitive and bestial. From this last book we understand that Swift criticises the idea we, human beings, have that we are the only rational creatures in the world. And I think the reason swift has to fight against this idea is that man has started to be too confident and too disrespectful to the other creatures.
By telling us all the details of the way the horses have organised their society, Swift tries to show us how our real world should be. The way of living of the Yahoos is the way we live our everyday life, we don’t respect each other, we fight against one another, and we always look for power and for our personal interests without taking care of the people next to us.
In my opinion this last trip is the one that really manages to change Gulliver’s opinion and later the reader’s opinion of our world and it is the only one that has a true impact on our behaviour. Even though the other trips have in the end a moral, expressed through Gulliver’s way of behaving when he gets home, his reaction after the last trip is one of disgust for the human species comparing it to the wise horses’ kind.
In conclusion, all these satirical targets Swift had during this four-part story can only take to a whole book of satire on the mankind and on the human society in particular. But by reading this book carefully we will find out that Swift’s purpose wasn’t to criticize the human beings for fun, it was because he cared too much for it and didn’t want to see it destroyed, and even worse destroying itself. In this story Swift shows us the way we really are and the need we have to save ourselves, because we need saving, but we have to save ourselves.