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Gullivers Travel Essay, Research Paper

Gulliver’s Travels – Gulliver’s Crushed

Spirit

Although Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift has long been thought

of as a children’s story, it is actually a dark satire on the fallacies of

human nature. The four parts of the book are arranged in a planned

sequence, to show Gulliver’s optimism and lack of shame with the

Lilliputians, decaying into his shame and disgust with humans when

he is in the land of the Houyhnhmns. The Brobdingnagians are more

hospitable than the Lilliputians, but Gulliver’s attitude towards them

is more disgusted and bitter. Gulliver’s tone becomes even more

critical of the introspective people of Laputa and Lagado, and in

Glubbdubdrib he learns the truth about modern man. Gulliver finds

the Luggnuggians to be a “polite and generous people” (III, 177),

until he learns that the Struldbruggs’ immortality is a curse rather

than a blessing. Throughout the course of Gulliver?s Travels,

Gulliver?s encounters with each culture signify a progression from

benevolence towards man to misanthropy, resulting in Gulliver’s

final insanity.

In the first part of the book, Gulliver arrives on a strange island and

wakes up tied to the ground by a culture of six-inch tall Lilliputians.

Gulliver is amazed by the skill of the Lilliputians in handling him, but

he is offended by their disrespect: “?in my Thoughts I could not

sufficiently wonder at the Intrepidity of these diminutive Mortals,

who durst venture to mount and walk on my Body, while one of my

Hands was at Liberty, without trembling at the very Sight of so

prodigious a Creature as I must appear to them” (I, 8). However,

Gulliver complies with every inconvenience that the Lilliputians

bestow on him, because he allows them to take him prisoner even

though he could destroy them with one stomp. It is rather amusing

that Gulliver surrenders to these tiny

people so quickly: “?when I felt the Smart of their Arrows upon

my Face and Hands?I gave Tokens to let them know that they

might do with me what they pleased” (I, 9). They also tie Gulliver

up as if he were a dog, and search his pockets in order to

confiscate any weapons, among numerous other actions in which

Gulliver placidly succumbs. No matter how respectful Gulliver is,

however, it is negated by his lack of shame. By urinating on the

queen?s palace to put out a fire, he does not realize that he offended

the queen immensely, and this is the cause for his impeachment. By

making these people small, Swift seems to be criticizing man?s petty

nature, but Gulliver is oblivious and gullible, treating them as if they

are bigger than they actually are. Gulliver?s attitude towards the

Lilliputians shows that he has respect for humanity, no matter how

small, even though the respect is not returned.

In contrast to the tiny, petty Lilliputians, the Brobdingnagians are

huge and unexpectedly docile. Gulliver?s expectation when he sees

the first Brobdingnagian is rather pessimistic: ” For, as human

Creatures are observed to be more Savage and cruel in Proportion

to their Bulk; what could I expect but to be a Morsel in the Mouth

of the first among these enormous Barbarians who should happen

to seize me?” (II, 66). Gulliver?s expectations turn out to be the

opposite, for he is treated as an object of wonder, instead of food.

Even though they are more cordial than the trivial Lilliputians,

Gulliver notices more flaws in the Brobdingnagians, namely in the

defects of their skin. By noticing this, Gulliver has in effect become

as petty as the Lilliputians, because the outside of a person is the

most trivial aspect to their much larger nature. Gulliver also behaves

in a more shameful way about his bodily functions around the

Brobdingnagians, for while he shamelessly urinates on the palace in

Lilliput, in Brobdingnag he hides in a sorrel leaf. Perhaps

Gulliver?s attitude is a result of the dehumanizing way in which he

feels small and insignificant in an otherwise huge world. His feeling

of insignificance is magnified by the manner in which he is handled:

as a toy, a thing, an animal, an alien, a freak, and a machine.

Gulliver is startled when he sees himself and the queen next to each

other in a mirror: “?there could nothing be more ridiculous than the

Comparison: So that I really began to imagine my self dwindled

many Degrees below my usual Size” (II, 85). From this statement it

is apparent that the Brobdingnagians are as symbolically huge as the

Lilliputians are small: they represent true moral human nature, but

Gulliver is too small to see it.

Where the first two parts of the book concern the physical size of

people, the third voyage concerns the scientific, mental side, as

demonstrated by the Laputians who inhabit a floating island.

Gulliver finds them both impractical and difficult to communicate

with: “I have not seen a more clumsy, awkward, and unhandy

People, nor so slow and perplexed in their Conceptions upon all

other Subjects, except those of Mathematicks and Musick” (III,

136). In this book, Gulliver criticizes the culture more openly than

he does in the previous two books, and he sums up the problem

with this society as follows: “I rather take this Quality to spring from

a very common Infirmity of human Nature, inclining us to be more

curious and conceited in Matters where we have least Concern,

and for which we are least adapted either by Study or Nature” (II,

137). As Swift satirizes the people who absorb themselves so much

into the scientific world that they cannot communicate with others,

Gulliver as a character becomes more aware of the dark side of

human nature. The floating of the island is a metaphor of the side of

humanity that is the mind, which

often floats away from the body and becomes isolated, which is a

stark contrast to the previous two books which describe the more

physical side of humanity.

Gulliver becomes even more disgusted with the inhabitants of the

country that lies below the floating island of Laputa. He discovers

that the people are entirely absorbed in scientific experiments that

are absolutely useless, since the people of Lagado are almost

starving. He then moves on to Glubbdubdrib, where the magicians

allow him to summon great people from the ancient dead. Gulliver

then decides to summon modern people, such as royal families, and

he is genuinely disappointed: “I was chiefly disgusted with modern

History?How low an Opinion I had of human Wisdom and

Integrity, when I was truly informed of the Springs and Motives of

great Enterprizes and Revolutions in the World, and of the

contemptible Accidents to which they owed their Success” (III,

170). It is through the dead that Gulliver learns the truth about the

corruptness of modern man, which would shatter any man?s hopes

and crush his spirit. The facts that he learns contributes to his

increasing hatred of the human race, both mentally and physically,

for even the human body begins to sour in Gulliver?s mind: “How

the Pox under all its Consequences and Denominations had altered

every Lineament of an English Countenance?introduced a sallow

Complexion, and rendered the Flesh loose and rancid” (III, 173).

Despite Gulliver?s newfound contempt for humankind, his earlier

optimism is revived in his visit to the Luggnuggians, where he learns

of a race of people called the Struldbruggs, or the immortals.

Gulliver?s extreme enthusiasm at the mention of eternal life is

laughed at by the Luggnuggians, because Gulliver does not know

the truth about Struldbruggs: they age continuously. This finding is

essential to Gulliver?s attitude towards man, for the only joy he can

extrapolate from life is knowing that some people never die, which

turns out to be negative.

Therefore, even people that are elevated and praised in the

imagination are corrupted and tainted in Gulliver?s world.

The final book of Gulliver?s world is perhaps the most horrifying

look into what Gulliver perceives as human. Called “Yahoos,” they

are represented as more animal-like than human, even though they

are technically human beings: “Upon the whole, I never beheld in all

my Travels so disagreeable an Animal, or one against which I

naturally conceived so strong an Antipathy” (IV, 193). His opinion

of the Yahoos contrasts with his opinion of the Houyhnhnms, in that

the Houyhnhnms are rational and logical, whereas the Yahoos are

the debase and corrupt side of human nature. Though the

Houyhnhnms perceive Gulliver as another Yahoo that is capable of

amazing intellect, Gulliver is offended that they would even put him

in the same class, because his hatred is so strong: “I expressed my

Uneasiness at his giving me so often the Appellation of Yahoo, an

odious Animal, for which I had so utter an Hatred and Contempt”

(IV, 205). However, Gulliver?s hatred for his own race begins to

turn on him ironically when he describes the culture of his native

country to the Houyhnhnms. The rational beings conclude that

Gulliver really is a Yahoo because the civilized people of Gulliver?s

culture are just as corrupt as the less civilized Yahoos. Upon

realizing the morose fact that he is indeed a Yahoo dressed up like

a civilized man, Gulliver?s psyche collapses and he is transformed

into a misanthrope, forever alienated from the rest of society.

All four books of Gulliver?s Travels form a rapid descent into the

dark nature of man. Swift is satirizing the elements that make men

human, from small pettiness to corruptness and greed. When a sane

man such as Gulliver is exposed to the different aspects of human

immorality, Swift

shows how these influence his life and the effect, ultimately, is the

deterioration of his mind. At the end of the book, Gulliver cannot

even look at his family without feeling disgust. Above all, he is

disgusted with himself for being a part of such a corrupt race as

man. But Gulliver is “an honest Man, and a good Sailor, but a little

too positive in his own Opinions, which was the Cause of his

Destruction” (IV, 191).


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