? It is unusual when a masterpiece develops

out of an assignment, but that is, more or less, whathappened in the case of Gullivers Travels. The Martinus Scriblerus Club proposed to satirize the
follies and vices of learned, scientific and modern men. Each of the members was given a topic, and
Swifts was to satirize the numerous and popular volumes describing voyages to faraway lands. Ten
years passed between the Scriblerus project and the publication of Gullivers Travels, but when Swift
finished, he had completed a definitive work in travel literature. Moreover, he had completed what
was to become a childrens classic (in its abridged form) and a satiric masterpiece. Swifts main
character, Gulliver, is a man who only pays attention to surface meanings and events. Gulliver is also,
as might be expected, gullible. Gulliver narrates details leaving the reader to ponder the deeper
meaning. Gullivers naive nature permits the reader to perceive the humor and the irony in Gullivers
Travels in the readers own way, thus, making the novels fascination seem inexhaustible.

As the narrator of the Travels, Gulliver never detects the double meanings of events. Gulliver,
a sailor and a surgeon, always notices the details but is not in the habit of contemplating significance.
He gives the same deadpan, pedestrian account of the beginning of his voyages that he does when he
tells of his foreign adventures. Gulliver believes almost everything he is told because he lacks the
imagination to see contradictions. For example, when Gulliver travels to Lilliput, the Emperor
entertains Gulliver with some court diversions. The diversions, however, prove to be quite different
than one might expect; they are not plays nor masques nor musical performances. I was diverted
with none so mush as that of the rope-dancers, performed upon a slender white thread…this diversion
is only practiced by those persons who are candidates for great employments, and high favor, at
court…whoever jumps the highest without falling, succeeds in the office. (pgs 53-54)This passage
describes the Lilliputian court custom by which men seeking political office demonstrate their agility
in rope dancing, among other activities. How long and how skillfully a candidate can dance upon a
rope determines his tenure in office. Besides the rope dancing there are other diversions. Noblemen
compete for official favor by crawling under or leaping over a stick. They are then rewarded with
various colored threads. The jumping and crawling games that Gulliver witnesses and describes
sound innocent, like games children might play. To Gulliver the diversions seem as nothing more
than …country shows, wherein they exceed all nations I have known, both for dexterity and
magnificence. (pg53)Gulliver accepts rope dancing as a valuable accomplishment and even praises
the politicians for their agility. Unlike Gulliver, the reader is able to notice the folly of a system that
advances politicians for rope-dancing; realizing that the significance of these diversions is far from
innocent. The crawlers and jumpers perform for the amusement of the monarch and are rewarded
with either blue, red or green threads. In this passage Jonathan Swift is satirizing politicians.
Politicians, Swift is saying, are always ready to debase themselves by performing humiliating games,
hoping to win the favor of the monarch or obtain ribbons, money, or titles. Similarly, Swift is
satirizing the methods by which politicians are chosen in England in the eighteenth century. It is
evident that the Lilliputian method of competing for office is comical. However, in eighteenth
century England (as well as throughout world history) there have been many political elections which
do not deviate in absurdity from rope-dancing. For example, politicians have often been chosen
through bribery and trickery. Thus, the satire in Gullivers Travels is applicable to all time periods.

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During Gullivers stay in Lilliput he discovers that there is a war between the nation of Lilliput
and Blefuscu. From Reldresal, the Principal Secretary of Private Affairs, Gulliver learns that the
conflict started over a religious question: at which end should the faithful break their eggs? at the big
end? or at the little end? …the primitive way of breaking eggs before we eat them, was upon the
larger end: but his present Majestys grandfather, happened to cut one of his fingers. Whereupon the
Emperor his father published an edict, commanding all his subjects, upon great penalties, to break the
smaller end of their eggs. The people so highly resent this law, that our histories tell us there have
been six rebellions raised on that account: wherein one emperor lost his life, and another his
crown…and it is estimated that eleven thousand persons have, at several times, suffered death, rather
than submit to break their eggs at the smaller end. (pgs 62-63)He explains further that the
Blefuscudians break their eggs in the original style, at the big end, but the Lilliputians must break
theirs on the smaller end. There is no compromise to be made since Lustrog, the prophet of their
religion, has said that All true believers shall break their eggs at the convenient end. (pg 63)The
death of eleven thousand Lilliputian rebels seems vicious and, at the same time, ridiculous because
Gulliver is credulous enough to accept the importance of the egg question. To the Lilliputians, the
question of how to break an egg is very significant. It is a moral and a political issue and Gulliver
accepts it as such. However, the absurdity of such a quarrel is evident. Swift, however, is comically
satirizing the many disputes which rage within Europe in the early seventeen hundreds. Swift is
poking fun of numerous events including the holy wars. By portraying the ridiculousness of the egg
dilemma Swift hints to many wars in Europe which have started over similarly insignificant issues.
The war between the Lilliput and Blefuscu can represent the war between Catholic France and
Protestant England. Similarly, this passage can be employed in satirizing many of the present cissies.
Throughout the novel Swift satirizes human nature. In the beginning of Gullivers journey
when Gulliver arrives in Lilliput he is the man mountain, larger and superior than the Lilliputians.
During his stay in Lilliput Gulliver is just, benevolent, obedient, as well as humble. Gulliver is very
cautious not to injure the Lilliputians when they approach him. Ironically, Gulliver also yields to the
Emperor who is a small doll in comparison to Gulliver. My gentleness and good behavior had
gained so far on the Emperor and his court, and indeed upon the army and people in general, that I
began to conceive hopes of getting my liberty in a short time. (pg 53)This passage from the text
shows how compliant Gulliver was even though he could have obtained his freedom by force at any
time. Similarly, Gulliver was pacifistic and did not wan violence. The Emperor seemed to think of
nothing less than reducing the whole empire of Blefuscu into a province, and governing it by a
viceroy; of destroying the Big-Endian exiles, and compelling that the people break the smaller ends
of their eggs. But I endeavored to divert him from this design, by my arguments drawn form the
topics of policy as well as justice: and I plainly protested, that I would never be an instrument of
bringing a free and brave people into slavery. (pg 66)
Upon Gullivers arrival in Brobdingnag, however, Gullivers persona changes dramatically.
Due to Gullivers insignificant size in comparison to the Brobdingnagians Gulliver becomes an object
of curiosity. He is not treated as a person by the natives but rather as a vermin or a plaything.
Gulliver tells the king of England and its social and political system. The king laughs at the little
people and Gulliver begins to agree with the kings view of how comical Gullivers country sounds.
However, many mishaps do not let Gulliver forget that he is not a giant. Gulliver is humiliated,
threatened physically, and emotionally hurt. Despite all, though, Gulliver is still tempted to brag
about himself. He is still not aware that the giants are morally superior. When speaking to the king
Gulliver is naive and idolizes his countrys customs and institutions. Gulliver decides that the kings
lack of enthusiasm for England springs from his ignorance of the country. Gulliver decides to become
the kings tutor. …I told him of an invention to make a certain powder, into an heap of which the
smallest spark of fire falling, would kindle the whole in a moment…a proper quantity of this powder
…could destroy ranks of an army at once, batter the strongest walls to the ground, sink down ships,
tear down houses dashing out the brains of all who came near. (pg 134)In Brobdingnag Gulliver
is reduced to a boastful, hostile and contemptuous person.

During his last travel Gulliver is marooned in the land of the Houyhnhnms where his character
undergoes another transformation. On this island Gulliver discovers the Utopian-like society of the
Houyhnhnms, who are horses. He also encounters the beastly Yahoos who remind him of ape-like
beasts. Gulliver does not want to be associated with the filthy and disgusting Yahoos and strides to
be more like the Houyhnhnms. The Houyhnhnms, however, see Gulliver more as a Yahoo then one
of their own. Gulliver tries be more like the virtuous Houyhnhnms and describes England to his
master. His master is appalled by the idea that Yahoos run the country and finds the English society
cruel and barbaric. As time passes Gulliver begins to agree with the Houyhnhnms and thinks that
European people are like the Yahoos. …my master daily convinced me of a thousand faults in
myself, whereof I had not the least perception before, and which with us would never be numbered
even among human infirmities. I had likewise learned from his example an utter detestation of all
falsehood or disguise; and truth appeared so amiable to me, that I determined upon sacrificing every
thing to do. (pg 244) Gulliver would have remained in this society forever had he not been exiled
by the Houyhnhnms. When Gulliver is found by a sea captain Gulliver states that …I would suffer
the greatest hardships rather than return to live among Yahoos. (pg 270) Upon Gullivers return
to England he can not bear to be near the foul smelling Yahoos, and it takes him several months to
get accustomed to England. Thus, on the last journey Gulliver becomes a more virtuous person and
disapproves of the Yahoos. Swift uses this transition of Gullivers nature to show how mans morals
and beliefs can be reshaped. Through Gullivers travels Swift is able to satirize humanity itself, by
showing how Gullivers ideals are reshaped by different societies.

George Orwell was correct in stating that Gullivers Travels is a book which it seems
impossible for me to grow tired of…I have certainly not read it less than half a dozen times since. Its
fascination seems inexhaustible. This quotation seems accurate due to the skill with which Swift has
written the novel. Swift created Gulliver, a jejune individual, to narrate the travels. Due to Gullivers
impartial nature and his regard for detail the novel is regarded as a masterpiece. Since Gulliver does
not draw any conclusions and is rather gullible it is the readers job to make sense of all that
Gulliver observes. Swift uses satire throughout the novel to point out faults in society. This satire
is finds fault not only with society but with human nature and can be applicable to any time period.