In 1726, the Anglo-Irish satirist Jonathan Swift wrote Gulliver’s Travels.
Gulliver’s Travels was originally intended as an attack on the hypocrisy of the establishment, including the government, the courts, and the clergy, but it was so well written that it immediately became a children’s favorite.
Swift wrote Gulliver’s Travels at a time of political change and scientific invention, and many of the events he describes in the book can easily be linked to contemporary events in Europe. One of the reasons that the stories are deeply amusing is that, by combining real issues with entirely fantastic situations and characters, they suggest that the realities of 18th-century England were as fantastic as the situations in which Gulliver finds himself.
Through basic analysis of history one learns that anybody who has made a substantial difference in society was originally misunderstood and unappreciated. For example, Galleleo Galilee was charged with heresy and imprisoned in his home for his ludicrous theory of the earth revolving around the sun. Emily Dickinson was considered insane and grossly unappreciated for her time. also, Edgar Alan Poe, discarded as an eccentric, was painfully understated as a writer.
Society, in many cases, becomes so enthralled in being judgmental towards a person’s work that sometimes the truth of the situation is distorted. This is exactly the case for Jonathan Swift. Because of his renowned satire, Gulliver’s Travels, Swift was labeled as a misanthrope. This, however, is far from the truth. Jonathan Swift was a satirist. A satirist cannot be a misanthrope. Thus, deductive reasoning prevails; Jonathan Swift is a not a misanthrope.
A satire is a piece of writing that exposes fault, may it be society or human nature, exposes fault none the less. Next, the satire mocks the fault. Lastly, it suggests a better way of doing something. a satirist, one who writes a satire, cannot be a misanthrope. This statement is true because he is making an effort to improve the condition of or relinquish the problem. A misanthrope, on the other hand, would make no attempt to better any condition because he simply hates man. thus, by definition, a satirist cannot be a misanthrope.
Swift’s satirical masterpiece, Gulliver’s Travels, appeared in 1726. Written in four parts, it describes the travels of Lemuel Gulliver to Lilliput, a land inhabited by tiny people whose size renders all their pompous activities absurd; to Brogdinnags, a land of roaming giants who are amused when Gulliver tells them about the glories of England; to Laput and its neighbor Lagado, populated by quack philosophers and scientists; and to the land of Houhynhnms, where horses behave with reason and men, called Yahoos, act like uncivilized beasts (“Gulliver’s Travels”).
This satire reveals many faults in society. first of all, Gulliver is symbolic of the citizens of England: gullible, eager to please, and proud. Another satire is England’s government in part I which is symbolized by the Lilliputians and all their flaws. Also, Swift takes another shot at England’s government in Part III where the floating island symbolizes how England never interact with people but instead deals out punishments and laws without considering the people. Swift also satirizes the complacency of Europe; that is, the idea that they are the greatest in the universe- the size of the Brogdinnags mirrors this perfectly. Lastly, the sub-cultures chosen by Swift satirized society’s way of always being drawn towards the extremes such as the Epicuriansim and savagery of the Yahoo’s and the painful stoicism and refinement of the Houhynhnms.
Swift completes the satire with a suggestion of how society should be. The proverbial utopia is propped up in part II as the Brogdinnags enter the story. The ideal picture of this group is painted by the fact that they have no concept of war. “He asked what business we had out of our own islands, unless upon the score of trade or treaty, or to defend the coasts with our fleets. Above all, he was amazed to hear me talk of a mercenary standing army in the midst of peace, and among a free people.” (Swift, 146) Along side this, the Brobdinnags were also presented as a pacifist nation. One can make this assumption through the reaction of the king when he is informed about guns, tools of destruction. “The king was struck with horror at the description of those terrible engines, and the proposal I had made.” (Swift, 150) Another noteworthy aspect of the these people is the fact that their government isn’t infested with corruption. “He could not tell what I meant by the secrets of state, where an enemy or some trivial nation were not in the case.” (Swift, 151) Adjacent to this great virtue of their government, there is also the fact that they have concise laws. Laws that are explained in terms that which all citizens can understand and only be one interpretation. “No law of that country must exceed in words the number of letters in their alphabet, which consists only in two and twenty.” (Swift, 151)
The audience, through a basic understanding of this piece, can accept the fact that Gulliver’s Travels is a satire. Swift, through exposing fault, mocking it and suggesting an alternative, is a satirist. Restating the fact that a misanthrope cannot be a satirist, Swift is not a misanthrope.