In my five-page essay, I shall try to prove that Jonathan Swift uses epic satire within his novel. I shall limit my task by focusing on mainly the pettiness of human nature and the corruption in politics. This will be interesting to me because the corruption in politics and human nature of the eighteenth century are vastly different from today.
Swift uses satire to connect to England, his hometown, and the corruption within its society and economy. He begins with the island of Lilliput. This is where Gulliver, the main character, encounters tiny people of six-inches and soon becomes a prisoner to them. These tiny people are named Lilliputians. After a good while, Gulliver becomes trustworthy to them and is used to be an unbreakable monster against the Lilliputians enemies, the Blefuscudians. This huge ordeal is all because of a disagreement on which end an egg should be cracked on. This goes on to show how petty humans can be.
Eventually Gulliver realizes the petty and corrupt intentions of the Lilliputians and their society. Although Gulliver had realized the corruption within the Lilliputians priorities he hasn’t quite yet realized the corruption within his own government. The two cities, Lilliput and Blefuscu, represent England and France and swift uses satire to point out the “needless bickering” between the two at the time of the enlightenment, according to Wikipedia.
After returning home for a while he soon sets out for sail again and finds himself on an island called Brobdingnag. Unlike his first voyage he now comes across these humans of great size and although they fancy him just like the previous encounter; this time it’s because of his diminutive size.
When he is introduced to the royal family of Brobdingnag and the king himself converses with Gulliver about his homeland. The king, after hearing all the horrible things about England, then goes on to state that Gulliver and his people possess an excessive amount of pride and utterly disgusting. The king says, “ But, by what I have gathered from your own relation, and answers I have with much pains wringed and extorted from you. 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.” (5;147)
Swift uses satire to point out that as humans we have an excessive amount of ego and pride and that humans are disgusting. He goes on to point out the flaws of the brobdingnags. For example he makes a comparison between the hairs on a mole to boat cable wires and another is how horrible the Brobdingnagians carry this awful odor.
Gulliver then travels to the floating island named Laputa. Although there are not physical attributes that set Gulliver and the Laputans apart they both have different mentalities. Laputans have a very narrow mind set and prefer to not only focus on one thing but to completely isolate themselves into their work. They basically ignore the world around them and have to be physically dragged back to reality.
Laputans live too much in the intellectual world rather than the real world. We see this when the Laputans use measurements and their way of living. Instead of using something practical like a tape measure, ruler, or measuring cup, etc. they use compasses or objects.
Laputa is a direct satire of corruption in politics. Gulliver eventually encounters the land below Laputa which is named Balnibarbi. This is supposed to represent Ireland and the rebellion at the time. Swift uses satire to point out the corruption within England by having Laputa cover them anytime they did anything wrong basically depriving them from their source of life.
Swift was using this physical difference between the two to show the royal power England held over Ireland. He also believed that rebellion wouldn’t be a thing if the royal court had cared about their citizens happiness and well being.
On his final journey Gulliver travels to a place by the name of Houyhnhnm Land where he is faced with two sets of characters. The two species are the yahoos and the others are called Houyhnhnms. Gulliver is assaulted by the ugly human-like species called the Yahoos but he is kindly saved by an intelligent horse known as one of the Houyhnhnms. Unlike all of his other voyages he wanted to find a way to escape and “for the first time in his voyages, he does not yearn for leave to come back to mankind”. (1.2, About Gulliver\’s travels)
The Land of Houyhnhnms represent Swift’s distaste for those who expound theories of philosophy and the expense of reality. Swift believed philosophy was just nonsense. This is because he was a realist.
It is commonly known that nobody is perfect so it is major that Swift made the Houyhnhnms, a basically perfect race, to be horses. It seems that Swift takes all of humans worst qualities and gives them to the yahoos. We see that they are violent, promiscuous, and gluttonous.
As Gulliver returns back to England he not only had returned to humanity but to all the immoral and wicked behavior that humanity has to offer. Gulliver feels like he can relate more to the Houyhnhnms rather than mankind and that is why he is so distant from his wife. Gulliver says,
“ my horses understand me tolerably well; I converse with them at least four hours everyday. They are strangers to bridle and saddle; they live in great amity with me, and friendship to each other. “ (11;311)
Gulliver has adapted to the Houyhnhnms lifestyle and feels like the horses are more reasonable then the humans. This is why he spends the rest of his days fancying the horses.