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Gulliver’s Travel As a Symbolical Work
Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) was an author, journalist and political activist. He is best known for his satirical novel Gulliver’s Travels and the satirical essay on the Irish famine, “A Modest Proposal”. ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ is a book of fantasy, satire and political allegory, and appeals to 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 the author the titles of high-quality writer and commentator and reputation . In this book, Gulliver, a surgeon on a merchant ship, travels to four imaginary countries. The book is therefore divided into four parts. His first trip is to Lilliput, whose inhabitants are about six centimeters 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, maintaining a love for music and mathematics. His last visit is to the land of the Honyhnhnms and Yahoos. They are rational and civilized horses, and the yahoos are irrational and bestial human beings, completely dirty.
Before discussing the symbols in his work, ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, we should know something about the literary term ‘symbol’. The word “Symbol” is derived from the late Latin word “Symbolum” which means witness, sign or emblem. It is, in fact, the ornament of literature. The author uses it to honestly expose all the hidden things or philosophy of the work to the readers as they may not face any difficulty in understanding. If this happened, the work would not be interesting and useful in representing the age. It is clear that Jonathan Swift has used symbols to convey his ideas to the readers making it easier with their help. All things considered, we can say that a symbol is something that represents something else. In Gulliver’s Travels, everything represents something else because it is written for the purpose of criticizing contemporary philosophies and customs. Almost every person in this book represents a historical figure or an idea.
Let’s analyze the symbols used in his work, Gulliver’s Travels.
In the first book, Swift narrates Gulliver’s visit to the Lilliputians, the six-inch inhabitants. They represent the symbol of the extreme pride of humanity. The author depicts race with irony. He discovers that they are small creatures with small minds, but they are the stock of gossip and conspiracy; despite this, they are considered large. Gulliver is under the spell of their vain glory and is made gullible by 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 size difference between himself and the race. It is an explicit satire of the British government. Gulliver discovers that Lilliputian government officials are chosen for their skill in tightrope dancing, which is recognized as arbitrary and ridiculous. It symbolizes England’s system of political appointment which is arbitrary. The difference in their sizes symbolizes the importance of physical power. Gulliver can crush the Lilliputians by walking carelessly, but they do not realize their own insignificance which symbolizes their small mind. They keep Gulliver tied up, believing they can control him. Swift symbolizes humanity’s empty claim to power and importance.
Swift is very careful about his satire and use of symbols. The articles signed by Gulliver to gain his freedom are in a formal and self-important language symbolizing a meaningless and contradictory role, because Gulliver is the symbol of great strength and power. You can violate all links for your own safety. The story of the conflict between Lilliput and Blefuscu is ridiculous. The High-Heels and Low-Heels symbolize the Whigs and Tories of English politics. Lilliput and Blefuscu symbolize England and France. The violent conflict between Big Endians and Little Endians symbolizes the Protestant Reformation and the centuries of war between Catholics and Protestants. Therefore, 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 foolishness 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’s ridiculous that people fight over how to interpret it when they aren’t sure their interpretation is right and others are wrong.
The Lilliputian emperor is the symbol of tyranny, cruelty and corruption, and is obsessed with the ceremony that shows an unchanging symbol of bad government. It is also a scathing satire on George I, King of England (1714-1727), for much of Swift’s career. He has no admiration for the king. The Empress Liliputia represents Queen Anne, who blocked Swift’s advance in the Church of England, having offended some of his earlier satires. Gulliver’s urination in his room represents Swift’s ‘A Tale of a Tub’. The empress’s disgust at Gulliver’s urination is similar to Queen Anne’s criticism of Swift’s work and her efforts to limit his outlook on the Church of England. In fact, his urination symbolizes his ability to control the Lilliputians. It illustrates the importance of physical power. Gulliver disobeying the emperor’s order to destroy Blefuscu’s fleet signals his feelings of responsibility towards all beings. Gulliver is in a position to change Lilliputian society forever. There is an army reference between Lilliput and Blefuscu which symbolizes their patriotic glories with such a proud march of armies. The Lilliputian emperor’s request to Gulliver to serve as a sort of makeshift Arc de Triomphe for the troops to pass through is a pathetic reminder that his grand parade is extremely silly. The war with Blefuscu is the symbol of the absurdity that comes out of wounded vanity. The Lilliputians therefore symbolize lost human pride and indicate Gulliver’s inability to diagnose it correctly.
In Book II (Part II), Jonathan Swift narrates Gulliver’s visit to the island of the giants. Here his walking is not a symbol of danger for the Borbdingnagians as it was in his visit to Lilliput because the situation is the other way around. Borbdingnagians represent English ways. After a brief stint as a working monster, Gulliver is rescued by the king and queen, and lives a life of considerable comfort at court. He spends much of his time learning the language and talking to the king about life in England. The king emerges as a just, merciful, very sympathetic and humane ruler. Borbdingnagians symbolize the private, personal and physical side of human beings, when examined closely. In Lilliputians, Gulliver symbolized a god-like power, but here he is the symbol of the slave and puppet to perform various tricks for paying viewers. Borbdingnagians do not symbolize negative human characteristics. The behavior of the Borbdingnagians is different and seems more civilized than Gulliver. The Queen’s good will towards Gulliver and common sense views meet. Their slavery is virtual which symbolizes the fundamental humanity of the Borbdingnagians. So it’s similar to Europeans who are happy to jump in quickly when the opportunity presents itself. It is a golden puppet in his hands, and he is given a comfortable cradle with the protection of rats.
In this book, we find a dwarf who is unable to achieve the power that usually accompanies large physical size, but he achieves a distinction that symbolizes the politics of those who try to achieve power not through physical strength but through his distinction which is exactly immoral and immoral. ordinary Women and their flaws symbolize imperfection as examined under close enough scrutiny. Gulliver’s microscopic view of flies and flesh symbolizes the discovery of the microscope. At the end of the 17th century, books containing enlarged images were published for the first time. These microscope views knew levels of complexity and failure. In their eyes, the small size of Europeans coincides with their moral weakness. Gulliver’s offer of gunpowder represents the imperfection of the British. The king’s refusal symbolizes that this race is more human than the other races. It means that, in this society, vices are minimized to the maximum. Although this race has achieved great moral success, 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 irrelevant to human life. During his journey, his ship was attacked by pirates. He spoke to them in the Dutch language, but later his exposure to pagans more merciful than Christian symbolized Swift’s religious belief. In this visit, power is implemented not through physical size but through technology. The floating island is both a formidable weapon and an allegorical image representing the symbol of the government and the people. In this visit, he narrates the rigid devotion of the Laputans to abstract theory, language, architecture and geography symbolizes non-humanity. Scientists are committed to extracting sunlight from cucumbers and turning excrement into food and turning ice into gunpowder. The architect undertakes to design a way of building houses from the roof down that symbolizes impossibility and futility, representing the scientific society founded in 1660. Robert Boyle, Robert Hooke and Isaac Newton were all members of the Royal Society. His main task was to use the new techniques of science to improve the craft, etc. The theorist ruined a country by forcing its people to follow his fresh and utterly useless methods.
Gulliver’s escape in Glubbdubdrib symbolizes Swift’s attempt to challenge the standards of abstract learning. In general, the ancient Greeks and Romans thought of themselves as truly virtuous, where as Europeans they were somewhat degenerate. Apart from that, the Struldburgs of Luggnagg symbolize human desires. They seek eternal life and the primary benefits of old age. Indeed, the wisdom of old age can be used to help humanity, but the Struldburg Immortals only grow more prejudiced and selfish. The immense sadness of struldbrugs and the emptiness of Gulliver’s desire to acquire riches symbolize Swift’s condemnation of such self-centered goals as the state of small minds irrelevant to a good society.
Jonathan Swift narrates Gulliver’s fourth voyage to Honyhnhnms, representing an ideal of rational existence. Here, man is supposed to be a yahoo and is subject to animals. It represents that animals are more civilized or a model citizen. Their society is protected from crime, poverty, discord and unhappiness. They are unaware of passion, joy and ecstatic love. The Honyhnhnms appeal to reason rather than any holy scripture as a criterion for appropriate action. They do not use force but only strong exhortation. All of Gulliver’s pain suggests that they had a greater impact on him than any other society he has visited.
In fact, it is a bitter criticism of the human being. Jonathan Swift chose humanity in all three visits, but here he chose animals. Indeed, the Honyhnhnms represent man’s misguided and ostentatious arrogance in the power of reason. The fact that Gulliver makes a canoe by sewing to collect the skins of the yahoos to escape the island represents his quick cynicism for men. If we discuss it, moreover, it is the main weapon of the cynic or satirist to improve humanity because everything satirical is a reformer of memory.
In fact, it is the view of his book in a nut shell. His work needs more attention and more time. It hides a great treasure of the relevant era. It is recognized that his criticism is quick and harsh, but he has not used it to exploit human beings but to correct them by choosing their follies.
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