A Utopia in Brobdingnag
Just as the French philosopher Rabelais had an immense influence on Swift, Thomas More, the English philosopher, also had a significant influence that one can see in Swift’s greatest satire, Gulliver’s Travels, especially during Gulliver’s voyage to Brobdingnag. In this part of the book Swift uses Utopia, More’s writing, to emphasize the immorality of the English, and bases his second book, set in Brobdingnag, on the ideas that More presents in his own book. Although all Brobdingnagians do not possess all of the same qualities that the Utopians possess, Swift uses many of the Utopian characteristics, such as morality and logic, and incorporates them into his Brobdingnagian world.
The most prevalent and important characteristic that both Brobdingnagians and Utopians possess is the idea of morality. In Gulliver’s Travels Swift uses the size of the Brobdingnagians comparatively to Gulliver as an indication of their levels of morality. As the Brobdingnagians are large giants their level of morality is high, and compared to these highly moral people Gulliver is merely a midget, a small English man with low moral standards that stem from his upbringing in England. The government contributes to many of these moral problems that take place in England. However, in Brobdingnag the government is based on the characteristics of common sense, justice, mercy, and understandable laws. It is a simple government that, unlike the government in England, has no refinements, secrets, or mysteries. Like in Utopia, Brobdingnagians learn only specific subjects: morality, history, poetry, and practical mathematics. They learn only what is necessary, and are not able to think in abstract ways. Their laws must be clear, concise, and only contain twenty-two words. Commenting on the law is considered a capital crime and receives a severe punishment. Although the laws and customs are understandable, they are also ideal and sensible, and are followed by Brobdingnagians. These giants do what is morally correct and follow this ideology in every aspect of their lives, which leads to their personal happiness and freedom. By lying about the customs and institutions of England Swift shows how Gulliver is corrupted by the English system which, instead of leading to honest human beings, caus...
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...Their books are clearly written about the subjects that are simple and necessary. No abstract ideas enter into the minds of these giants, so as not to cause confusion.
More and Swift both describe Utopias in order to criticize the society of that time. The Utopias are ideals that would create better societies in which people would be simple, moral people, who would not possess any negative qualities. Growing up in these societies, one would not experience strong emotional feelings, and in turn he or she would be happy. These Utopias eliminate the strong emotional feelings, good and bad, and although the good ones cause happiness, the bad ones cause sadness, thus creating a society of complication and confusion. If a society were solely based on reason and practicality there would be uniform happiness that all people could experience, and by creating these Utopias Swift and More attempt to show how this happiness can be accomplished. Using More as a mentor, Swift creates his own sense of Utopia in Brobdingnag, and although it is not exactly as More’s Utopia, it is a Utopia Swift creates in order to show the corrupt society in which he lives.
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