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Swift's main purpose in Gulliver's Travels.

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In the novel Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift comically describes a world of political and social stupidity in a way that satirizes the English world that Swift himself lived in. According to Arthur E. Case, Jonathan Swift "conceived himself as a positive moral and social reformer. [...] There is plentiful evidence of his conviction that he knew not only what was wrong with the world, but also the means by which the world could be brought nearer to perfection" (16). Swift's intentions are to reform the weakness and inability of the English government and political world through the different places that he has artfully created in this novel. He also criticizes the inappropriateness of war, the fickleness of the English social atmosphere, and the corruption of the legal universe in Swift's era. In the novel, Lemuel Gulliver, the main character as well as an English physician and sea captain, is swept away on many distant voyages all over the world. Gulliver explores several different worlds that all separately portray the many types of corruption in the English empire that Swift intends to reform. Swift's main purpose in Gulliver's Travels was to illustrate how the English government and society needed a reformation. As an Irish patriot and a former admirer of the English government and life, Swift now sees England and all its glory in a very different way. One of the first subjects he satirizes is the social atmosphere and composition of the late 17th and early 18th century England. From the social fabric of England, he first criticizes the class structure. Swift writes, "The rich Man enjoyed the Fruit of the poor Man's Labour" and "the bulk of our People was enforced to live miserably, by labouring every Day for small wages to make a few live plentifully" (189). Swift implies in this passage that a class structure exists in England that benefits a few, the rich and the nobility, by putting the less wealthy people or the majority of the population to work for them. ...read more.


On top of the overall corruption of the English monarchy, Swift implies that all political figures must be corrupt based solely on the fact that they are political figures. "The Royal Throne could not be supported without Corruption; because, that positive confident, restive Temper, which Virtue infused into Man, was a perpetual clog to publick Business" (148-149). Swift states the English conception that in order to be well governed and a strong leader, one must surely be corrupt and angry. In fact, the concept says that all officials must be corrupt in order to support the government. Therefore, since these officials must be corrupt to be successful political figures, the way they arise to power must also be corrupt. Continuing, Swift relates the political candidates in Lilliput to those of England when he acknowledges the way these candidates were elected. In the novel, these candidates were elected to power by a contest in Rope-Dancing whereby whoever jumped the highest without falling on the tight rope would succeed the vacant office at court (17). Basically, Swift connotes that all these officials were unqualified for the jobs they were elected to and says the same thing about English officials. In Swift's opinion, government elections need to be reformed to eliminate the promotion of unqualified individuals to a position of political power. However, Swift does not stop with political figures of high positions. He criticizes England's entire governing class as well. "The Pages, Lacquies, and Porter, by imitating their Master, become Ministers of State in their several Districts, and learn to excel in the three principal ingredients, of Insolence, Lying, and Bribery" (192). According to Swift, everybody ranging down from the top officials practices the same corruptions as the English nobility. Furthermore, these government officials are not only corrupt themselves, but they let themselves be governed by "Vice and corrupt Bawds, Whores, Pimps, Parasites, and Buffoons" (148). ...read more.


(187) In this sample case, Swift provides examples of the bribery and absurdity that proceeds behind the case itself. Moreover, he shows the flaws behind the system and the factions that dominate it. Swift goes on to write, "He was at a Loss how it should come to pass, that the Law which was intended for every Man's Preservation, should be any Man's Ruin" (186). After reading this passage, one might conclude that the law is corrupt in that it promotes punishment and cruelty, which is somewhat true, but Swift refers to his own views on unreasonable reasoning. The master Houyhnhnm said the preceding passage rationally without an understanding of punishment and its connection to changing a person's criminal will to that of good will. Therefore, Swift supports a small part of the legal system in the form of punishment but believes that the system fails to deliver the punishment that is rightfully due to the cruel criminal majority. Therefore, the basis of society, which is the legal system, is in fact, one of the most corrupt institutions of all England according to Swift, the cynical satirist. In a modern view of Swift's attempts at reforming the state of England, he has been somewhat successful based on the fact that many of the changes he implied in Gulliver's Travels have been enacted today. However, a few of the corruptions Swift identifies are still prevalent in present day England. Nevertheless, Swift remains one of the prominent satirists of Europe in the early 18th century due to, for the most part, his satirical efforts at reform in Gulliver's Travels. It is true that societies are still unethical and unreasonable in their traditions and pastimes, that governments and its political figures are still corrupt, that war still exists everyday throughout the world, and that legal systems still offer unfair and unjust rulings, but for these reasons, that is why Swift's novel is still very much alive today as a prime example of human cruelty, corruption, and rational idiocy. ...read more.

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