Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) was an author, journalist, and political activist. He is best known for his satirical novel Gulliver’s Journey and his satirical essay on the Irish Famine “A Modest Proposal”. ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ is a book of fantasy, satire, and political allegory, and it is very popular with all age groups. He wrote Gulliver’s Travels in 1725 and it was published in 1726.
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The book had great success throughout the British Empire and earned the titles of writer and commentator of great quality and reputation for the author. In this book Gulliver, a surgeon on a merchant ship, travels to four imaginary countries. So the book is divided into four parts.
His first trip is to Lilliput, the inhabitants of which are about six inches tall. His second visit is to Brobdingnag, the land of giants. His third visit is to the islands of Laputa and Legedo, inhabited by philosophers and scientists, who keep a love of music and mathematics. His last visit is to the land of the Honyhnhnms and Yahoos. They are rational and civilized horses, and the Yahoo are unreasonable and bestial people, completely filthy.
Before we discuss the symbols of his work “The Gulliver’s Travel”, we should know something about the literary term “symbol”. The word “symbol” is derived from the late Latin word “symbolum” and means “sign”, “sign” or “emblem”. It is indeed the ornament of literature. The author uses it to honestly reveal any hidden things or philosophy of work to readers as they may not have difficulty being understood.
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If something like this happened, the work would not be interesting and useful in representing age. It is evident that Jonathan Swift used symbols to convey his ideas to readers by making them easier with help. If we keep track of all things, we can say that a symbol is something that stands for something else. Everything in Gulliver’s Travels stands for something else because it was written to criticize contemporary philosophies and customs. Almost every person in this book represents either a historical figure or an idea.
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Let’s examine the symbols in his work The Gulliver’s Travel ‘.
In the first book, Swift tells Gulliver’s visit to Lilliputians, the six-inch inhabitants. They represent the symbol of the extreme pride of humanity. The author ironically represents the breed. He thinks they are little creatures with little thoughts, but they are the reservoir of overbite and conspiracy; Still, they think they’re great.
Gulliver falls under the spell of their vain glory and becomes gullible through their threats of punishment, even though the race has no real physical power over him. Gulliver learns more about the Lilliputian culture and the huge difference in size between him and the race. It is an explicit satire by the British government.
Gulliver finds that Lilliputian government officials are selected for their tightrope skills, which are recognized as arbitrary and ridiculous. It symbolizes England’s arbitrary political appointment system. The difference in their size symbolizes the importance of physical strength.
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Gulliver can destroy the Lilliputians by walking carelessly, but they do not realize their own insignificance, which symbolizes their faint heartedness. They keep Gulliver tied up believing that they can control him. Swift symbolizes humanity’s hollow claim to power and meaning.
Swift is very careful with his satire and use of symbols. The articles that Gulliver signed to gain his freedom are in formal and self-important language and symbolize a meaningless and contradicting piece of paper, for Gulliver is the symbol of great strength and power.
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He can break all ties for his own safety. The story of the conflict between Lilliput and Blefuscu is ridiculous. The high heels and the low heels symbolize the Whigs and Tories of English politics. Liliput and Blefuscu symbolize England and France. The violent conflict between Big Endians and Little Endians symbolizes the Protestant Reformation and centuries of warfare between Catholics and Protestants.
European history, then, is a series of brutal wars over meaningless and arbitrary differences of opinion. The conflict “how a person cracks an egg” is a symbol of silliness and triviality. It is ridiculous 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 ridiculous for people to argue about how to interpret it when you are unsure whether your interpretation is right and others are wrong.
The Lilliputian emperor is the symbol of tyranny, cruelty, and corruption, and he is obsessed with ceremonies that depict an immutable symbol of bad government. It is also a biting satire of George I, King of England (from 1714 to 1727) during much of Swift’s career.
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He has no admiration for the king. The Lilliputian empress represents Queen Anne, who blocked Swift’s ascension to the Church of England after insulting some of his previous satires. Gulliver’s urination in her neighborhood represents Swift’s work ‘A Tale of a Tub’.
The Empress’ disgust at Gulliver’s urination resembles Queen Anne’s criticism of Swift’s work and her efforts to curtail his prospects in the Church of England. In fact, his urination symbolizes his ability to control the Lilliputians. It shows the importance of physical strength.
Gulliver disregards the emperor’s orders to destroy the Blefuscu fleet and shows his sense of responsibility towards all beings. Gulliver is able to change Lilliputian society forever.
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There is a reference to the army between Lilliput and Blefuscu that symbolizes their patriotic glory with such proud marching of armies. The Lilliputian Emperor’s request of Gulliver to serve as a makeshift triumphal arch for the troops is a pathetic reminder that their grand parade is utterly silly. The war with Blefuscu is the symbol of the absurdity that emerges from wounded vanity. Hence, the Lilliputians symbolize lost human pride and it shows Gulliver’s inability to properly diagnose it.
In Book II (Part II) Jonathan Swift tells Gulliver’s visit to the giant island. Here his walk is not a symbol of danger for the Borbding rodents, as it was during his visit to Lilliput, because the situation is reversed. Borbdingnagians represent English ways. After a brief stint as a work freak, Gulliver is rescued by the King and Queen and lives a life of considerable comfort at court. He spends a lot of time learning the language and talking to the King about life in England.
The king emerges as a just, merciful ruler, a very personable and humane man. The Borbdingnagians symbolize the private, personal and physical side of humans on closer inspection. In Liliputans, Gulliver symbolized god-like power, but here he is the symbol of the slave and puppet to perform various tricks for paying spectators. The Borbdingnagians do not symbolize negative human traits. The behavior of the Borbdingnagians is different and appears to be more civilized than that of Gulliver.
The Queen’s goodwill towards Gulliver and common sense views are found. His enslavement is virtual and symbolizes the basic humanity of the Borbdingnagians. It is similar to Europeans who are happy to take a quick leap when the opportunity arises. He is a golden puppet in her hands, and he is given a comfortable cradle with protection from the rats.
In this book we find a dwarf incapable of attaining the power generally associated with great physical size, but acquiring a distinctive character that symbolizes the politics of those who try not to gain power through physical strength attain, but by their distinctive character, which is exactly immoral and exactly ordinary. The ladies and their shortcomings symbolize the imperfection, which is examined by close examination. Gulliver’s microscopic view of flies and meat symbolizes the discovery of the microscope. Books with enlarged images were first published in the late 17th century. Such microscopic views knew the level of complexity and error. In his eyes, the tiny size of Europeans corresponds to their moral weakness. Gulliver’s range of gunpowder represents the imperfection of the British. The rejection of the king symbolizes this race more humanly than the other races. This means that in this society the vices are minimized as much as possible. While this race has shown great moral achievement, it is still not perfect.
Gulliver’s third visit is to Lupta, which shows Swift’s attack on science and abstract knowledge. The Laputans are the symbol of the stupidity of theoretical knowledge that is irrelevant to human life. During his voyage, his ship was attacked by the pirates. He spoke to them in Dutch, but later his exposure to pagans more merciful than Christian symbolized Swift’s religious beliefs. During this visit, electricity is implemented not by physical size but by technology. The floating island is both a formidable weapon and an allegorical image that is the symbol of government and the people. During this visit he recounts the Laputans’ rigid devotion to abstract theory, language, architecture and geography, which symbolizes non-humanity. Scientists are busy extracting rays from the sun from cucumbers, turning excrement back into food, and turning ice into gunpowder. The architect is tasked with designing houses from the roof down that symbolize impossibility and futility and represent the scientific society founded in 1660. Robert Boyle, Robert Hooke, and Isaac Newton were all members of the Royal Society. Its main role was to use the new techniques of science to improve the craft etc. The theorist ruined a country by forcing its people to follow their fresh and utterly useless methods.
Gulliver’s escape to Glubbdubdrib symbolizes Swift’s attempt to question the standards of abstract learning. Overall, the ancient Greeks and Romans were seen as really virtuous, where Europeans were somewhat degenerate. Apart from that, the Struldburgs von Luggnagg symbolize human desires. They are looking for eternal life and the primary benefits of old age. Indeed, the wisdom of old age can be used to help humanity, but the immortal Struldburgs only become more prejudicial and selfish. The strong sadness of the Struldbrugs and the emptiness of Gulliver’s desire to acquire wealth symbolize Swift’s condemnation of such selfish goals as the condition of small minds, which are irrelevant to good society.
Jonathan Swift tells the fourth journey from Gulliver to Honyhnhnms and represents an ideal of rational existence. Here man is supposed to be Yahoo, and he is exposed to the animals. It represents that the animals are more civilized or an exemplary citizen. Your society is protected from crime, poverty, disagreement and misfortune. You are unaware of passion, joy, and ecstatic love. The Honyhnhnms appeal to reason, rather than any scripture, as a criterion for appropriate action. They do not use force, only strong admonitions. All of Gulliver’s grief suggests that they influenced him more than any other society he has attended.
In fact, it’s a bitter criticism of people. Jonathan Swift chose humanity on all three visits, but here he chose animals. Indeed, the Honyhnhnms represent the false and ostentatious arrogance of man in the power of reason. Gulliver’s making a canoe by sewing to collect Yahoo’s skins for escaping the island represents his quick cynicism for people. If we discuss it further, the cynic or satirist’s main weapon is to improve humanity because every satirist is a reformer by heart.
Indeed, it is the nutshell view of his book. His work needs more attention and more time. It hides a great treasure of the respective age. His criticism is recognized to be quick and harsh, but he was not used to exploiting people, but to correcting them by picking out their follies.
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