Gulliver’s Travel as an allegory
Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) was an author, journalist, and political activist. He is best known for his satirical novel Gulliver’s Travel and his satirical essay on the Irish famine “A Modest Proposal”. Gulliver’s Travels is a book of fiction, satire, and political allegory, much loved by all ages. He wrote Gulliver’s Travels in 1725, and it was published in 1726. The book was a great success throughout the British Empire and earned him titles of writer and commentator of the highest quality and reputation of the author. In this book, Gulliver, a surgeon on a merchant ship, travels to four imagined countries. So, the book is divided into four parts. His first travel is to Lilliput which has a length of about six inches. Second visit to Brobdingnag, country of giants. His third visit to the islands of Laputa and Legido, which are inhabited by philosophers and scientists, love music and mathematics. Recent visit to the land of Honyhnhnms and Yahoos. They are rational and civilized horses, and the Yahoos are irrational and lively human beings, utterly sloppy.
Before discussing the symbols of his work ‘Gulliver’s Travel’, we should know something about the literary term ‘symbol’. The word “symbol” is derived from the Late Latin word “Symbolum” meaning symbol, sign, or emblem. It is indeed the decoration of literature. The author uses it to expose all hidden things or business philosophy faithfully to the readers, as they may not have any difficulties in understanding. If such a thing were to happen, it would no longer be an interesting and useful work to represent a lifetime. It is clear that Jonathan Swift has used symbols to convey his ideas to the readers by making it easier with the help of them. Considering all things, we can say that a symbol is one thing that represents another. In Gulliver’s Travels, everything is something else because it is written for the purpose of critiquing contemporary philosophies and customs. Almost everyone in this book represents either a historical figure or an idea.
Let’s examine the symbols used in his work, Gulliver’s Book.
In the first book, Swift recounts Gulliver’s visit to the Lilliputians, the inhabitants of the Six Inches. They are the symbol of great pride for mankind. The author represents race ironically. He finds that they are small creatures with small minds, but they are the stock of backbiting and conspiracy; Despite this, they consider themselves great. Gulliver falls under their spell of vainglory and becomes credulous with their threats of punishment, even though the race has no real physical power over him. Gulliver learns more about the culture of the Lilliputians and the great difference in size between it and the race. It is an outspoken satire of the British government. Gulliver finds that Lilliputian government officials are chosen by their rope-dancing skill which is both arbitrary and ridiculous. It symbolizes the arbitrary system of political appointment in England. The difference in their sizes symbolizes the importance of physical strength. Gulliver can crush the Lilliputians by walking carelessly, but they don’t realize their own insignificance which symbolizes their small-mindedness. They keep Gulliver on a leash, believing they can control him. Swift stands for hollow humanity’s claim to power and importance.
Swift is very careful with its spelling and use of symbols. The articles Gulliver signed to gain his freedom are written in formal language and the self-important language symbolizes a meaningless and self-contradictory piece of paper, for Gulliver is the symbol of might and great power. He can violate all restrictions for his own safety. The history of the conflict between Lilliput and Belfusco is ironic. High heels and low heels symbolize the Whigs and Tories in English politics. Lilliput and Blefuscu symbolize England and France. The fierce conflict between the Endians and Little Endians symbolizes the Protestant Reformation and the centuries of war between Catholics and Protestants. So, European history is like a series of brutal wars over senseless and arbitrary disagreements. The conflict “how a person chooses to break an egg” is a symbol of naivety and pettiness. It is absurd and unreasonable to conclude that there is no right or wrong way to worship. Swift suggests that the Christian Bible can be interpreted in more than one way. It is absurd for people to quarrel over how to interpret it when one is not sure that one interpretation is correct and others are wrong.
The Lilliputian Emperor is a symbol of tyranny, cruelty, and corruption, a ceremonial maniac who is a constant symbol of bad government. It is also a scathing satire of George I, King of England (1714-1727), during most of Swift’s career. He has no crush on the king. The Lilliputian Empress stands for Queen Anne, who blocked Swift’s advancement in the Church of England, after she had offended some of his earlier satires. Gulliver’s urinating in a quarter represents Swift’s “pelvic story” work. The Empress’s disgust at Gulliver’s urination is analogous to Queen Anne’s criticism of Swift’s work and her efforts to limit his prospects in the Church of England. In fact, urinating symbolizes his ability to control the Lilliputians. Demonstrates the importance of physical strength. Gulliver disobeys the Emperor’s orders to destroy Belfusco’s fleet, indicating his feelings of responsibility to all beings. Gulliver finds himself in a position to change Lilliputian society forever. There is an army signal between Lilliput and Blefuscu that symbolizes their national glories with such proudly marching armies. The Lilliputian Emperor’s request for Gulliver to act as a kind of temporary triumphal arch for the troops to pass is a pathetic reminder that their grand show is so absurd. The war with Belfusco is a symbol of the absurdity that comes from wounded vanity. Hence the Lilliputians symbolize lost human pride and point to Gulliver’s inability to properly diagnose him.
In Book Two (Part Two), Jonathan Swift recounts Gulliver’s visit to the Island of Giants. Here his walk is not as symbolic of the danger to the Borbdingnagians as he was of his visit to Lilliput because the situation is reversed. Borbdingnagians represent the English ways. After a brief stint as a maniac, Gulliver is rescued by the King and Queen, and he lives a very comfortable life at court. He spends most of his time learning the language and talking with the King about life in England. The king appears as a just and merciful ruler and a very kind and humane man. Borbdingnagians symbolize the private, personal and physical side of man, when examined up close. In the Lilliputians, Gulliver symbolizes godlike power, but here he is symbolic of a slave and puppet for performing various tricks to pay spectators. Borbdingnagians do not symbolize negative human characteristics. The Borbdingnagians behave differently and seem to be more civilized than Gulliver. The Queen’s goodwill towards Gulliver and common sense views are found. His virtual enslavement symbolizes the basic humanity of the Borbdingnagians. So, it’s similar to Europeans who are happy to take a quick leap when the opportunity arises. He is a golden teddy bear in their hands, and is given a comfortable cradle with protection from mice.
In this book, we find a dwarf who is unable to gain the strength that generally accompanies large physical size, but has a distinction that symbolizes the politics of those who try to attain power not through physical strength but through their excellence which is utterly immoral and ordinary. Ladies and their imperfections symbolize imperfection as examined through close enough examination. Gulliver’s microscopic view of flies and flesh symbolizes the discovery of the microscope. The late seventeenth century saw the publication of the first books containing enlarged images. These microscopic views knew levels of complexity and error. In his eyes, the small size of Europeans is offset by their moral weakness. Gulliver’s supply of gunpowder represented a defect in the British. The refusal of the king symbolizes this race being more humane than the other races. This means that, in this society, vices are reduced to a minimum. Although this race has achieved a great moral achievement, it has not yet reached perfection.
Gulliver’s third visit to Lupta which shows Swift’s attack on science and abstract knowledge. Labutans are a symbol of the stupidity of theoretical knowledge that has nothing to do with human life. During his voyage, his ship is attacked by pirates. He spoke to them in Dutch, but later when the Gentiles were exposed more merciful than the Christians symbolized Swift’s religious belief. In this visit, energy is not implemented through physical volume but through technology. The floating island is a formidable weapon and the metaphor is a symbol of the government and the people. On this visit, he recounts Labutin’s rigorous devotion to abstract theory, language, architecture, and geography symbolizing the inhuman. Scientists are working on extracting sunlight from cucumbers, turning waste into food and turning snow into powder. The architect is committed to designing a roof-down way of building houses that symbolizes impossibility and lack of purpose, and represents the scientific society founded in 1660. Robert Boyle, Robert Hooke, and Isaac Newton were all members of the Royal Society. Its main task was to use the new technologies of science to improve the craft and so on. Parallax ruined a country by forcing its people into their new and completely useless methods.
Gulliver’s escape to Glubbdubdrib symbolizes Swift’s attempt to challenge the norms of abstract learning. In general, the Greeks and Romans were understood to be truly virtuous, while the Europeans were somewhat degraded. Apart from that, the Struldburgs in Luggnagg symbolize human desires. They seek eternal life and the initial benefits of old age. Indeed, the wisdom of old age can be used to help humanity, but the immortal Stroldberg only grows more prejudiced and selfish. The intense gentle sadness and emptiness of Gulliver’s desire to acquire riches symbolize Swift’s condemnation of such subjective aims as the condition of small minds which have nothing to do with good society.
Jonathan Swift recounts Gulliver’s fourth voyage to the Honyhnhnms, which is a paradigm of rational existence. Here, human is supposed to be on yahoo, subservient to animals. It represents that the animals are more civilized or a typical citizen. Their community is safe from crime, poverty, discord and unhappiness. They are unaware of passion, joy and ecstatic love. The Hunhenem appeal to reason rather than any sacred writing as a criterion for right action. They do not use force but only strong incitement. Gulliver’s complete melancholy suggests that their influence on him was greater than that of any other community he visited.
In fact, it is a bitter criticism of human beings. Jonathan Swift chose the human race in all three visits, but here he chose animals. Honyhnhnms, in fact, represent human sinful arrogance and boasting in the power of reason. Gulliver’s making of the canoe by sewing together yahoo skins to escape from the island is a swift mockery of the humans. If we discuss it further, it is the main weapon of the cynic or cynic for the betterment of humanity because every cynic is a reformer by heart.
In fact, it’s his book’s opinion in a nutshell. His work needs more attention and more time. It hides a great treasure from the relevant era. Admittedly, his criticism is quick and difficult, but he is not used to exploiting people but correcting them by choosing their follies.