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
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...
... middle of paper ...
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
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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