Swift’s Satire in Gulliver’s Travels

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Gulliver's Travels as a satire

Swift’s ‘Gulliver’s travels’ is not a travel writing at all. It is a travel into absurd and fantastic lands. It uses maps, figures, speed of ships, latitudes, longitudes. It uses markers of travel literature like topography, climate, bridges. It provides actual physical details but all of these are journeys into fantastic lands. Swift is also mocking the tradition of travel writing itself. He is suggesting that most of this travelogues written during the Elizabethan and early Enlightenment ages were actually admixtures of facts and fictions. Therefore there is a strong critique of the factuality of the travel writing within the text also. And Swift’s satire in Gulliver’s Travels is well portrayed.

Gulliver’s Travels is not a travel writing. It is a particular kind of satire, Mennipean satire ( a satire which is directed towards a particular school of philosophy). In this case Swift is a comprehensive critique of the philosophy of the Enlightenment.

Swift’s satire in Gulliver’s Travels depicts three kind of satires:
First, the local topical satire. For example in the land of lilliput there is a debate between the big endians and the small endians regarding which end of the egg is to be opened first. This is a oblique reference of the conflicts of the catholic and the protastants, and the whigs and the Tories. Also the prime minister of lilliput, Flimnap refers to the prime minister of England, Walpole.

Second, a satire against anglo Latin imagination, here the very belief that enlightenment England was a reincarnation or it resembles the classical Greece and Rome and that they are the inheriters of the classical traditions is being satirized by Swift.

Third, It satirizes the philosophy of Enlightenment that sees the human beings as rational and reasonable. Swift challenges the human reason, democracy, political idealism, and science. It critiques man being more beastly than rational. All aspects of Enlightenment are being torn apart.

The first two parts of the book, ‘A Voyage to Lilliput’ and ‘A Voyage to Brobdingnag’ can be seen through two different sides of the telescope. In both the cases the human is lilliput and human world is criticized as grotesque and excretory. In the third part, Laputa’s population consists mainly of educated people, who are fond of mathematics, astronomy, music and technology. Swift is here deliberately satirizing the Royal Society of London which was established for the development of science. Swift is saying human experiments, scientific experiments have limitations and all these lead to tyranny of the ordinary.

Thus Swift’s satire in Gulliver’s Travels in which the spokeperson Jonathan Swift travels to four different foreign countries, each representing a corrupt part of England. It is a parody of travel narrative. The fantasy is a topographical journey outwards but in reality it is a journey inwards into the nature of the English state, that is marked by conflict, corruption, cruelty and lack of liberty. Swift’s creation of this distopias are the gateways of satire. Thus it emerges not as a travel writing, not as a novel but as a work of satire.

Swift’s Satire in Gulliver’s Travelshttps://englishliteraturenotes.co.in/gullivers-travels-as-a-satire/

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swifthttps://englishliteraturenotes.co.in/gullivers-travels-as-a-satire/

The Satire in Gulliver’s Travelshttps://englishliteraturenotes.co.in/gullivers-travels-as-a-satire/

Perception of Satire In Gulliver’s Travelshttps://englishliteraturenotes.co.in/gullivers-travels-as-a-satire/

One Reply to “Swift’s Satire in Gulliver’s Travels”

  1. Wow! This is quite intriguing. Never really thought about this classic in this way!. Keep up the writing! I would be visiting this site quite often now. I sort of fancy reading literature a lot although I am a Microbiologist!

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