Gulliver\'s Travels: Summary

Many of the critics who have critiqued Jonathan Swift\'s Gulliver\'s
Travels have used the word extraneous more then once. Swift was viewed as an
insane person who was a failure in life. But this is far from the truth. Swift
wrote Gulliver\'s Travels, a book that has been assigned to students for years,
and it is written from experience. Swift\'s experience with the Tories and their
conflicts with the Whigs caused him to write books that mock religious beliefs,
government, or people with views differing from his own. In one of these books,
Gulliver\'s Travels, Swift criticizes the corruption of the English government,
society, science, religion, and man in general.
In Gulliver\'s first travel, in which he visited Lilliput, Gulliver is
faced with the minute people, called Lilliputians. Now while this is the
premise for a fantasy story, Swift uses the events within to make severe
criticisms of England between reigns of Queen Anne and George the first. The
people of Lilliput are about six inches tall, and there size signifies that
their motives, acts, and humanity are in the same, dwarfish (Long 276). In this
section, the royal palace is accidentally set on fire, containing the empress
inside. Instead of making his way across town, to the ocean, squashing the
people of Lilliput as he goes, Gulliver makes use of his urine to save the
palace. While this vulgar episode was a display of bravery, it infuriated the
emperor, causing revenge to be vowed on Gulliver. Rather then be happy that
both the emperor and the palace are not in ruin, the littleness of the
government and the people in general is displayed in this act. Another display
of this is the fact that Gulliver is used as the Emperor\'s absolute weapon, but
the emperor only uses him to conquer his world of two islands. This makes the
emperor\'s ambition seem extremely low (Bloom, Interpretations 84-5).
Swift also criticizes the religious beliefs of the Lilliputians and
England in the first story. In Lilliput, Ministers were chosen strictly on
agility, or their ability to walk a tightrope or stick jumping. They were able
to maintain their rank of minister as long as they could keep these defeating
these tasks (Swift, Writings 89).
The political parties of the English government are represented by the
conservative High Heels who depict the Tories, and the progressive Low Heels, or
Whigs. As per their names, the distinguishing mark of the parties is the height
of their heels. Within these two parties, Swift criticizes the English
political parties, and the Prince of Wales (Brady 21). Swift also mocks the
religion war that was going on in England, through the use of the war between
Lilliput, and its nearest neighbor, Blefuscu. Swift\'s use of the terms High
Heels and Low Heels to compare the meaningless battles of the Whigs and Tories,
such as the height of heels (Swift, Writings 81).
With Gulliver\'s next travel, we find him in Brobdingnag. His voyage
shows us the filthy mental and physical characteristics of man. Here, Gulliver
is confronted with an adult nurse. The nurse\'s repulsive action of revealing
her breasts to Gulliver. This reminds him of how the Lilliputians found his
skin full of crater like pores, and stumps of hair growing from them. The odor
of the immense creatures is offending, and it caused Gulliver to recall the fact
that the Lilliputians were also offended of his body odor (Bloom,
Interpretations 27-8).
In Laputa, Gulliver is confronted with the old age Struldbuggs, which
look utterly hideous resulting from old age, and the deterioration of their
bodies. The Yahoos from the land of Houyhnhnms are filthy, uncivilized
creatures, who use their own dung as a weapon. In these descriptions, Swift
criticizes both the moral and physical corruption of man (Bloom, Critical Views
Gulliver\'s first owner in Brobdingnag represents the selfishness of man.
Gulliver is constantly displayed in public, abused for the profit of the owner.
When his owner finds out that Gulliver is weakening, he sells him immediately,
at a high price in order to milk every last penny out of Gulliver.
Gulliver\'s third voyage, to the floating island of Laputa is one of the
most satirical of the whole book. In this voyage Swift criticizes the Royal
Society of England, in which he says is composed of useless philosophers,
inventors, and scientists. The floating island signifies that the inhabitants
are composed of the same airy constitution as the environment (Long 276).
Projects done by such people are summed up by "the Universal Artist," who
directs his followers to turn useful things into the exact opposite, which
results in useless achievements.