During the eighteenth century there was an incredible upheaval of commercialization in London, England. As a result, English society underwent significant, "changes in attitude and thought", in an attempt to obtain the dignity and splendor of royalty and the upper class (McKendrick,2). As a result, English society held themselves in very high regards, feeling that they were the elite society of mankind. In his novel, Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift satirizes this English society in many ways. In the novel, Swift uses metaphors to reveal his disapproval of English society. Through graphic representations of the body and it's functions, Swift reveals to the reader that grandeur is merely an illusion, a facade behind which English society of his time attempted to hide from reality.
On his first voyage, Swift places Gulliver in a land of miniature people where his giant size is meant as a metaphor for his superiority over the Lilliputians, thus representing English society's belief in superiority over all other cultures. Yet, despite his belief in superiority, Swift shows that Gulliver is not as great as he imagines when the forces of nature call upon him to relieve himself. Gulliver comments to the reader that before hand he, "was under great difficulties between urgency and shame", and after the deed says that he felt, "guilty of so uncleanly an action" (Norton,2051). By revealing to the reader Gulliver's shame in carrying out a basic function of life, Swift comments on the self imposed supremacy of English society. By humbling their representative, the author implies that despite the belief of the English to be the most civilized and refined soc...
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...and nobility. Through clever representations, Jonathan Swift successfully humbles this society's pride and human vanity. He reveals the flaws it their thinking by reducing them to what they are, human beings, which, like any other group of human beings is able to do, have merely adopted a superficial self righteous attitude. In doing so, Swift makes a broader statement about mankind today. Despite all the self acclaimed advances in civilization and technology, we are still merely human; suffering from the same forces and flaws, impulses and imperfections as everyone else.
McKendrick, Neil. Brewer, John. Plumb, J.H. The Birth of a Consumer Society,
Indiana Universtiy Press, Great Britan, 1982.
Swift, Jonathan. "Gulliver's Travels". Norton Anthology of English Literature.
6th Ed. M.H. Abrams, vol.1, New York: Norton, 1986.
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