Jonathan Swift satire In “Gulliver’s Travels” is depend on two types houmour and serious. As we study any literary work or composition of any writer, poet, novelist, dramatist etc. We come to know about its mode of writing, whether it is a serious one or comic one or ironic or satirical one.
A deep and careful study of “Gulliver’s Travells” shows that under the surface of these accounts of different but unknown and strange worlds or islands, experienced by Gulliver, lies a very fundamental and basic aim of satire. As we know that a true genius of satire lies under unmasking or revealing the follies, foibles, absurdities, shortcomings, drawbacks, vices of different kinds of the people in a very humorous and light comic manner. The main aim of a satirist in revealing or pointing out the vices of the people is to reform the people by getting them awarded of their bad vices of life.
In Gulliver’s Travells, we see that Gulliver, the narrator, had satirized every field of life of English men of his time. In his first voyage to the land of Lilliputians, he satirizes the political offices of his country which have been disturbed by some dishonest and corrupt candidates. As we know that: different political offices were distributed among the candidates by the English king in Swift’s time, that’s why, Gulliver mentions. Flimnap in his account of the ways of life of Lilliputians who is the treasurer represents Sir Robert Walpole who was the prime minister of England. Gulliver satirises his tricky nature, tactics and political intrigues which he often used in parliamentary to get high offices and positions for his favorites. Dancing on a tightrope symbolizes Walpole’s skill in parliamentary tactics.
Similarly, Reldresal represents Lord Carter who was appointed by Walpole to the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The oft-quoted phrase, “one of the king’s cushions” referred to one of king George’s mistresses who helped to restore Walpole to favour after his fall in 1717.
In Lilliput, Gulliver was kept in the ancient temple and which Gulliver uses as a satire to Westminster Hall in which Charles I was condemned to death. In the account of search of Gulliver by the Lilliputians, Gulliver satirizes the committee which had been formed by Whigs to investigate the conduct of the men of establishment of the previous government and especially of Oxford and Bolingbroke who were suspected of treasonable relationships with the Old Pretender.
So, we can say that the activities of the Whig committee were very beautifully and aptly satirised by Gulliver in the account of Lilliputians’ ways of life. In the account of awarding the prizes to the winners of various contests in Lilliputians island, Gulliver satirises the ceremony of distributing different distinctions by the English King. Empress annoyance on Gulliver’s extinguishing fire in her apartment serves as an object of satirizing the Queen Anne’s annoyance with Gulliver for having written “A Tale of Tub” in which Gulliver attacked on religious abuses but the Queen Anne misread or misunderstood it.
Gulliver also satirises the intrigues and conspiracies which were set against him; show the features of political life, in England. The intrigues and conspiracies which were made by Flimnap against Gulliver in the island of Lilliputians give Gulliver a chance to satirize those intrigues and baseless impeachments which were going on in the court of George I. The articles of impeachment against Gulliver may be satirised as the actual impeachment in 1715 of four Tory ex-ministers.
On another occasion, Gulliver’s account of the political conflicts in the island of Lilliputians becomes a proof for Swift to satirize the political conflicts, intrigues and conspiracies of the government of his own time. Through the account of the conflict between the Big-Endian and the Little Endian, Swift satirises the going on conflicts and contests between the Catholics and the Protestants of English society of his time. Swift means to say that the conflicts and fights which are going on in the political parties and leagues of his society, are based on very cheap and worthless issues just as Big-Endians and Little Endians in Lilliput fight or wage a war among themselves on the issue of breaking the egg from the big end or small end. He is making fun of hair splitting theological disputes. In other words, we can say that Swift pokes fun at the political parties in England when he speaks of the two groups ‘in Lilliput. These two parties or factions are distinguished by their high heels and low heels.
We see that Swift has very deeply and bitterly criticised and satirised every field of life of the Englishmen which had been affected by the vices of that age. As we know that in his first part or first voyage, Swift sets his satire against the political system of his country but in Part II, his satire becomes general. He satirises the ugliness and the coarseness of human beings through the creatures of Brobdingnag. As the inhabitants of Brobdingnag are called Laputas, they present a contrast to the pygmies of Lilliput in size.
Here Swift is looking at mankind through the wrong end of the telescope. While in the account of Brobdingnag, he looks at mankind through a magnifying glass. There were not only the inhabitants (Laputas) were large and huge in size but also other animals like cat, dog, rat, eagles, etc. There were the women in huge and giant size that they treated Gulliver as a puppet or pigmy in their hands. Their bodies always displayed ugly sight and an everlasting smell always emitted from their bodies. Their breasts were too much big and large in size that they could even feed Gulliver from the nipples of their breast as a child. Through the account of the smell, ugliness and coarseness of the physical appearances and bodies, Swift satirises the ugliness and coarseness of English women of his time who used to beautify themselves outwardly with different powders, creams and chemicals.
Swift also satirises the scholars and philosophers of his age through the account in which Gulliver was estimated or judged as a creature of not being produced according to the regular laws of nature and hence he was a freak product.
Swift also presents a bitter satire against the tradesmen, businessmen, politicians and religious leaders through an account in which Gulliver was asked by the king of . Brobdingnag about the systems of politics, religion, trade and finance of his country. Turning to one of his ministers, the king observed how contemptible human grandeur was which could be mimicked by such diminutive insects as Gulliver. In other words, the king rebukes and condemns the human race of which Gulliver is a representative.
Here Swift compares the human race to people of Brobdingnag, consisting of insects. In this part of the book, the human pride and pretension are bitterly rebuked and ridiculed by Swift. According to the king, the human beings who have such lofty ideas about themselves are no better than insects. The beggars of English society are very aptly and bitterly criticized or rebuked by Swift in the account in which Gulliver told the readers that he had happened to see many beggars in the metropolis.
The sight of these baggers was really horrible and disgusting. Among the baggers was a woman with cancer in her breast. There was also a man with a huge tumour in his neck another bagger had wooden legs, each about twenty feet high. Gulliver felt disgusted at the sight of watching a lice crawling on their clothes. All this absolutely refers to Swift’s own view of the ugliness and foulness of the human body.
In the third part, Swift’s objects of satire are abundantly found which clearly prove that Swift has satirized the institutions of justice, legal courts, parliamentary proceedings, political systems of his time. After listening the prevalent hypocrisy, perfidy, cruelty, rage, madness, massacres, rebellions, murders, etc. from Gulliver’s mouth, the king commented on Gulliver’s accounts by saying that the history of his country seemed to him to be only a series of conspiracies, intrigues and is full of every kind of fatal and so called vices. He concluded from his remarks by saying that Gulliver’s country people are the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.
Swift’s satire once again becomes too much bitter and harsh against destructive weapons and political ideologies when the king reacts scornfully and disgustedly to Gulliver’s account of the destruction which can be caused by means of gunpowder. The king also felt surprised and strange when Gulliver told him that in his country, hundreds of books had been written on the art of government. On this, the king rebuked and commented by saying that only common sense, reason and justice and not books are needed to run a government.
Though in Part III, the satire is mild and light hearted but it is very meaningful and apt. Here Swift bitterly and corresively satirises the musicians, scientists, philosophers, builders, mathematicians, astronomers, scholars, professors, etc. of his country throughout the accounts of those experiments and researches which were going on at the Academy of Projectors in Lagado. The projectors were busy in finding methods to extract sunbeams out of cucumbers to convert human excrement into its original food; to build houses from the roof downwards to the foundation; to obtain silk from cobwebs and to produce book on various subjects by the use of a machine without having exerted one’s brain.
There is no doubt is saying that all these accounts are objects of bitter satire on the experimental as well as functional or practical works of the intellectuals of the Royal Society in England. Through the accounts of Laputans life, Swift satirizes the English system of administration of the Royal Society, adopted in running the governmental offices in Ireland. As English government used to rule Ireland from a long distance with having touch with Irish people directly. For this purpose, Englishmen used some politicians to hold property in Ireland.
Swift here presents an allegorical account of the successful resistance of Ireland against William Wood’s halfpence. Through the Laputans method of ploughing in the fields, Swift condemns and rebukes the old and useless agricultural methods in England of his time. Swift also satirizes historians and literary critics through Gulliver’s interviews with the ghosts of the famous dead. Here the object of satire is those historians who often distort the facts and realities of the lives of the great personalities and they often misinterpret great authors like Homer and Aristotle.
As the ghost of Alexander freely told that he had not been poisoned to death as books of history said but he had died of a fever caused by excessive drinking. Just like this, the ghost of Hannibal told Gulliver that he did not have a drop of vinegar in his camp and the historical account of his crossing the Alps was wrong. Similarly, through an account of the immortals in Part III, Swift satirises the desires and longings of those who want to remain alive or immortal throughout their life on earth. As we are told that the immortals or immortal persons have grown so old, feeble and infirm that they want to die but death does not come to them.
Swift does not stop here criticizing, rebuking, condemning and especially satirizing the follies, foibles and so called vices of his English Royal Society but he presents more offensive, corrosive and bitter satire on mankind in this Part IV of the Book. The Yahoos who are intended to represent human beings, described as abominable, and unteachable creatures.
At first, Gulliver is astonished and surprised by watching a very close resemblance between them and the people of his own race. In other words, through the ways of life and habits of Yahoos, Gulliver wants to satirize those trends, ways of life and inclinations of mankind which are beyond reformation and correction. In the comparison with Yahoos, the Houyhnhnms were noble and benevolent animals who always led and ran their affairs and offices of state by using their reason and intellect in the right way.
Actually, by showing the Houyhnhnms or horses more superior to human beings, Swift bitterly satirises the wrong use of reason and intellect of mankind in their governmental as well as private sectors of life. Houyhnhnms periodical meetings and assemblies for running their affairs of state in the right way such as controlling their population, supply of foods, production of edibles, education and medicines, etc. in every district of the country serves as an objects of satire on the wrong use of reason and intellect in every field of life of English Royal Society. Gulliver also tells his host that war in European countries was due sometimes to the ambition of kings and sometimes to the corruption of ministers. He tells the host about the deadly weapons which were used for destroying the human race in his country. He also tells about the law-suits that were fought in English courts and he also further spoke disparagingly about the lawyers and judges.
Here, Gulliver is exposing the evils of war and the wickedness of lawyers and judges who were more victims of drinking, gambling and debauchery than their studies of civil suits. The sketch or portrayal of political as well as social life of his country which Gulliver shows to the host, gives clear cut and bitter criticism of the evils prevailing not only in England but in all countries of the world.
According to Gulliver, the prime minister is a person wholly free from joy and grief and had a violent desire for wealth, power and titles. He was not absolutely a man of speaking truth to the people of his country. The host’s account of Yahoos love of shining stones, their gluttony for liquor and especially lascivious behaviour of the female Yahoos presents a server and bitter satire and criticism of the human race.
On the other hand, Houyhnhnm holding periodical meetings for regulating their population by not indulging in sexual intercourse merely for pleasure proves that Swift hoped and believed in these qualities to be normally found in human beings but which were actually lacking in them. After watching the good and excellent qualities of the ways of life in Houyhnhnms, Gulliver filled with so much admiration for them and with so much hatred and disgust for the human race that he had no desire even to return to his family. Though his reaction to these follies and foibles in the mankind showed him as cynic and misanthropist yet he had concluded his account with a severe condemnation of human pride which was a target of Swift’s satire.