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A CURSORY LOOK ON GULLIVER’S TRAVELS:

JONATHAN SWIFT
Gulliver’s Travels is the most famous of all Swift’s works. The origin of the book has been
traced to the celebrated Scriblerus Club which came into existence in the last months of
Queen Anne’s reign when Swift joined with Arbuthnot, Pope, Gay and other members in a
scheme to ridicule all false tastes in learning. According to Pope, Swift took the first hints for
“Gulliver’s Travels” from the Memoirs of Scriblerus, but the connection of Swift’s book with
the original scheme is very slight and appears chiefly in the third part of Gulliver’s book.
Gulliver’s Travels, though finished in 1725, was published anonymously at the end of
October, 1726, and within a month the book was in everybody’s hands.

Satire on Current English Politics in Part I:

In part I of the book, Gulliver describes his shipwreck in Lilliput, where the people are
just six inches in height. The emperor of Lilliput believes himself to be the delight and terror
of the universe; but the whole thing appears absurd to Gulliver who is twelve times as tall as
any Lilliputian. In the account of the two parties in the country, distinguished by the use of
high heels and low heels, Swift satirizes the English political parties, and the intrigues which
centered on the Prince of Wales. Swift also makes fun of religious feuds in his account of the
problems, which is dividing the people. The problem is: “Should eggs be broken at the big end
or the little end?” This part is full of references to current English politics, but the satire is free
from bitterness.

The Scornful Comments of the Brobdingnagian King in Part II:

In part II, containing an account of the voyage to Brobdingnag, Swift’s contempt from
mankind is emphasized. Gulliver now finds himself a dwarf among people who are sixty feet
in height. The king, who regards Europe as if it were an ant-hill, says, “How contemptible a
thing was human grandeur which could be mimicked by such diminutive insects” as Gulliver;
and Gulliver himself after living among a great race distinguished for calmness and common
sense, could not but feel tempted to laugh at the strutting and bowing of English lords and
ladies as much as the king laughed at him. The king could not understand the meaning of the
“secrets of State”, because he believed that the government of a country should be run
according to principles of common sense, reason and justice. Finally, the king observes: “I
cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious
vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth”. But Gulliver points
out to the reader that allowances must be made for a king living apart from the rest of the
world.

Satire on Theoretical Intellectuals in Part III:

Part III of the book is a satire chiefly on philosophers, projectors and inventors, men
who live in the air, divorced from the realities of life. If it be objected that these attacks on
the learned people were unfair, it must be remembered that England had recently gone
through the experience of the south Sea Bubble, when no project was too absurd to be
brought before the public. Unfortunately, swift does not properly distinguish between
pretenders to learning and those who were genuinely entitled to respect. In the island of
Sorcerers, Gulliver is able to summon famous men of ancient times and question them, with
the result that he finds the world to have been misled by prostitute writers to attribute the
greatest exploits in war to cowards, the wisest counsels to fools, sincerity to flatterers, piety
to atheists. Gulliver sees, too, by looking at an old yeoman, how the race had gradually
deteriorated through vice and corruption. In another country called Luggnagg, Gulliver finds
that the race of Struldbrugs or immortals, so far from being happy, is the most miserable of
all, condemned to endure an endless dotage.

Satire on Mankind in general in Part IV

In part IV of the book, the voyage to the country of Houyhnhnms and the Yahoos,
Swift’s satire is of the bitterest. Gulliver is now in a country where the horses are possessed
of reason and are the governing class, while the Yahoos, though having the shape of human
beings, are brutal beasts, without reason and without conscience. In trying to convince the
Houyhnhnms that he is not a Yahoo, Gulliver is made to show how little removed a man is
from the brute. Gulliver’s account of wars among human beings produces only disgust in the
master Houyhnhnm. The satire on law and lawyers and on the lust for gold is emphasized by
praise of the virtues of the Houyhnhnms and of their learning. The Houyhnhnms are governed
only by reason; and love and courtship are unknown to them. Gulliver does not wish to leave
this country for whose rulers he has developed the great respect.

The Misanthropic Tendency of Swift:

The satire in part IV is, indeed, terrible and fierce. All that can be said in reply to those
who condemn Swift for writing it is that it was the result of disappointment, wounded pride,
growing ill-health, and sorrow caused by the sickness of Stella whom he loved best in the
world. However, it is wrong to say that the denunciation of the human race in part IV is
baseless and unconvincing. It is true that Swift gives us a one-sided picture of the human
race, and that there is some exaggeration in this portrayal. But there is a sound basis for the
denunciation. Swift certainly shows himself to be a cynic or a misanthrope, but those with
any prolonged observation of the human behavior and a close contact with them will agree
that there is more of evil and wickedness in human nature than goodness.

Written & Composed By:

Prof. A.R.Somroo

M.A. English, M.A. Education

Cell: 03339971417