Gulliver's Travel Satire

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Gulliver's Travels is written from the perspective of a shipboard doctor named Lemuel Gulliver, and tells of four of his journeys into remote parts of the world. At the time Jonathan Swift wrote (1726), the increase in exploration of all parts of the globe had made stories of travels quite popular; the travels Swift wrote of, though, were fictional and satirical, even though presented as if a factual account written by Gulliver himself.

A Voyage to Lilliput: Mocking the Pompous

Gulliver's first voyage takes him to a land inhabited by people who are six inches tall. Lilliput and its rival kingdom of Blefuscu carry on as if their affairs were just as vital as those of European nations, and their nations just as capable, despite the fact that Gulliver could step on them all if he wished. As he records their society, court intrigues, religious disputes, and wars, it becomes clear that European politicians and aristocrats share much of the ridiculousness of the Lilliputians.

When Gulliver is finally forced to leave Lilliput, it is because of trumped-up charges of treason fabricated by court enemies. He spends a short time in Blefuscu, but because Lilliput threatens war over his presence there, he resolves to leave rather than cause further trouble.

When Gulliver journeys to a land of giants called Brobdingnag he experiences what it feels like to be a Lilliputian, as the giants are as much larger than him as he is larger than a Lilliputian. Gulliver's various brushes with death are humorous, but Swift also uses them to reinforce a major focus of this section: just as Lilliputian affairs are ridiculous because of their smallness, human pretensions are ridiculous as well.

Swift's second major target for satire appears when Gulliver tries to show the Brobdingnagian king the greatness of England; he succeeds only in showing its corruption. While English civilization is more complex and more technologically advanced than Brobdingnag, a large portion of...
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