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Gulliver Travels

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Kim Wong
Crockett
CN English 3
3/21/11
Essay 3- Critical Analysis Crazy, out of the world adventures. Each filled with a statement mocking the corruption of the English government. The author, Jonathan Swift, makes sure each place Gulliver visits is inhabited by a curious, flourishing monarchy, with flaws parallel to those of his native England. The ridiculousness of each of these countries is the heart of the story, which is a rather unforgiving satiric analysis of the often less-than-glamorous English royal court. The exaggerated, wacky lands that Gulliver visits in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels satirize and criticize the corruption of the English government. Swifts criticism begins on Gulliver’s first adventure, when he enters a land filled with tiny people. Just like England, Lilliput's illustrious history contains many culturally defining events, the greatest of which being the Emperor's grandfather's accidental cutting of himself while cracking an egg. "It is computed that eleven thousand persons have, at several times, suffered death, rather than submit to break their eggs at the smaller end". Swift's point here is that monarchs don't always wield their powers in responsible ways, and instead of being held accountable for their ludicrous actions, they are supported by sections of the public, opposed by the rest, and civil unrest becomes the apparent result of their pointless, self-serving decisions. Upon his stay, Gulliver soon found out that, "Candidates petition the Emperor to entertain his Majesty and the court with a dance on a rope, and whoever jumps the highest without falling, succeeds in the office". An absurd ritual to be sure, but the behaviors of the Lilliputian government act as a mocking mirror to England's political senselessness and corruption. The comment Swift makes is that the way the system works, no thought is given to who might make the best leader, or who, based on personal merit, might be most deserving of the job. The political selection system of Lilliput has no devices for choosing an honorable, or even competent, leader. It is as though choosing the leader of a country is an unimportant decision - to be treated lightly. In England, the succession of leadership was based on heredity, which is closely similar to the ridiculousness of the fake Lilliput society. On Gulliver’s third trip, he once again encounters peril at sea, and finds himself on the floating island of Laputa, which is inhabited by an intensely intellectual, deeply contemplative race of people. "The minds of these people are so taken up with intense speculations, that they neither can speak, nor attend to the discourses of others, without being rouzed by some external taction upon the organs of speech and hearing". Swift wanted to show that the Laputians are so caught up in their own ruminative brilliance as to be unable to be bothered by the needs and feelings of others. For a Laputian deep thought is not a discipline, it is practically a necessity of life, one that they indulge in to the point that they are incapacitated. This then, paints a picture not of pretentious introspection, but of gluttony, which in Swift's time was by far the graver ill. The implications go deeper than the fact that the Laputians are poor hosts, Swift suggests that people of high society are generally self-centered, too focused on their leisure time and idle entertainments to be bothered by the needs of the public. Gulliver's fourth expedition is to a land with no name, where horses comprise the leadership and humans are incoherent, ill-treated animals known as Yahoos. Gulliver, despite acting like a perfectly peaceful, unobtrusive citizen, is banished from the island because he looks like a Yahoo. He has been brainwashed so thoroughly by the Houyhnhnms that when he returns home he feels ashamed of his whole species. Swift's aim in creating this unnamed nation was to dissect the inherited superiority complex of royalty by simplifying it in terms of species. For the eighteenth century, Swift's assertion is actually quite radical; he suggests that the nobility is no better than the peasantry, which is what he criticized the English government for practicing. In the end, it is obvious that Swift produced the novel in order to criticize the corruption on the English government. Each civilization he encounters is politically and socially convoluted and bizarre, and all are exaggerated in some aspect, so as to serve as a satire for Gulliver's native country, England. England's government was somewhat blemished, and Swift leaves no flaw untouched, mocking everything from the succession of leaders, to royal gluttony, to the perceived supremacy of people born into royal roles. Swift used Gulliver’s Travels to make a statement regarding his harsh attitude for English government at the time.

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