Gulliver's Travels: Satire's Paradise

Topics: Gulliver's Travels, Satire, Jonathan Swift Pages: 9 (3296 words) Published: April 16, 2006
An Irish bishop was forced by Jonathan Swift to say that Gulliver's Travels, "was full of improbable lies, and for his part he hardly believed a word of it." (Brady 1) In a way the bishop was correct as six-inch people, giants, immortal humans, intelligent horses, and deformed creatures, all races presented in Swift's novel, don't exist. Gulliver's Travels, by far, was the most popular, influential, and controversial novel. For nearly three centuries, authors, professors, and critics have tried to fully decipher the purpose and meaning of his farfetched characters. A common conflict many critics arise at when researching or reading Gulliver's Travels is whether to identify it as a novel or a satire. (Knowles 3) The details and characters of the literature can be argued in either way. Whatever the identity of the work, Gulliver's Travels proved to be influential and controversial to the degree that within two weeks of its publication not only did it become, "‘the conversation of the whole town," but was also sold out. (Downie 262) Before any more is mentioned about the influence or aspects of this literature, it is first important to fully comprehend the meaning of satire with which Gulliver Travels is identified many times. Satire is the use of wit to depict idiocy, flaws, and illogicality. Inversely, it is a type of condemnation, which uses jesting to formulate its position; hence satire is essentially directed critical of fault, particularly those submitted as levelheaded scheme. Also, satire is frequently aimed at against those in authority, headship, or influence. It generally uses circuitous forms of joking, such as irony, exaggeration, and parody, to make its statements; troubles are tackled implicitly; for example, admiring that which merits criticism or taking a dreadful or feeble proposal to its bizarre conclusion. (Jaffebros) Written in a first person narrative of Lemuel Gulliver, the story and characteristics of Gulliver's Travels can easily be combined into numerous areas. "Gulliver's Travels is a carefully calculated synthesis of many kinds of literature, including genuine accounts of travel, imaginative combinations of realism and fantasy, outright fantasy voyages, and utopian and anti-utopian fables, which can idealize or satirize society or, indeed, do both." For centuries, critics have debated on the representation of the characters and locations that Swift uses. The journey of Gulliver from location to location depicts his (Gulliver) travel and adventures that he experiences. The modern interpreters of Swift's work have concluded that Swift uses Gulliver to express his beliefs and concerns about numerous issues. "According to Deane Swift (Jonathan's cousin), the book was a ‘direct, plain and bitter satire against the innumerable follies and corruptions in law, politicks, learning, morals, and religion.'" (Downie 264) Not only are the works, but also the beliefs of Jonathan Swift are in great controversy. Forming his beliefs around the religious philosophies of the seventeenth century comparable to the eighteenth century in which he lived in. Swift believed, unlike many intellects in his time period, in the "imperfect nature of human beings." (LC-1 422) Unlike others, he did not believe that the human were born innocent and "good" but become corrupted by the society. Critics in the eighteenth and nineteenth century often attacked him because of his deviating beliefs and labeled him as a "misanthropic." (LC-1 422) In Gulliver's Travels, Swift attempts to take away man of his airs, displaying the huge difference among real and epitome, among "how things are and how they should be." (Downie 266) However, critics try to use the background beliefs and history of Swift to interpret the meaning of various aspects in his novels, especially Gulliver's Travels. To understand a book, it is first important to understand the background and beliefs of the author. Jonathan Swift was born in Ireland in 1667, but...
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