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Swift's"Gulliver's Travels": a Social Satire

  • Date Submitted: 03/18/2013 09:12 AM
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Swift's "Gulliver's Travels": A social satire

“Gulliver’s Travels” is a great work of social satire. Swift’s age was an age of smug complacency. Corruption was rampant and the people were still satisfied. Thus, Jonathan Swift tears the veil of smug complacency off which had blinded the people to realities. In “Gulliver’s Travels”, there is a satire on politics, human physiognomy, intellect, manners and morality.

In the first voyage to Lilliput, Swift satirizes on politics and political tactics practiced inEngland through Lilliputians, the dwarfs of six inches height. He satirizes the manner in which political offices were awarded by English King in his time. Flimnap, the Treasurer, represents Sir Robert Walpole who was the Prime Minister of England. Dancing on tight ropes symbolizes Walpole's skill in parliamentary tactics and political intrigues. The ancient temple, in which Gulliver is housed in Lilliput, refers to Westminster Hall in which Charles I was condemned to death. The three fine silk threads awarded as prizes to the winners refer to the various distinctions conferred by English King to his favourites. The Lilliputians were highly superstitious:
“They bury their dead with their head directly downwards because they hold an opinion that after eleven thousand moons they are all to rise again.”
Gulliver’s account of the annoyance of the Empress of Lilliput on extinguishing fire in her apartment is Swift’s satirical way of describing Queen Anne’s annoyance with him on writing “A Tale of a Tub”. Swift’s satire becomes amusing when Gulliver speaks of the conflict between the Big Endians and the Little Endians. In this account Swift is ridiculing the conflicts between the Roman Catholics and the Protestants. High Heel and Low Heel represent Whig and Tory – two political parties in England.

In the second voyage to Brobdingnag, there is a general satire on human body, human talents and human limitations. Gulliver gives us his reaction to the coarseness...

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