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Prose Study - How important is setting in Gulliver's Travels?

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Introduction

Prose Study How Important is Setting in Gulliver's Travels? Gulliver's Travels was written in 1726 by Johnathan Swift. Swift was a very outspoken member of the Church of England. His previous book, The Tale of a Tub satirized the feuds between Catholics and Protestants, and ruined his chances of being a bishop with its unpopularity. Swift uses setting in Gulliver's Travels to reveal his own criticisms of humanity and his views on society. He presents several different societies, which each represent an exaggerated aspect of 18th century Europe. The eponymous 'hero' is Lemuel Gulliver, whose name indicates his nature: He starts off extremely gullible. As Gulliver travels through Lilliput, Brobdingnag, Laputa, Glubbdubdrib, Luggnugg, and the Land of the Houyhnhnms, he becomes disillusioned with his own humanity and ends up disgusted by other humans and spending his life talking to his horses. In Lilliput, Swift draws parallels with England, the nobility and parliament in particular. The emperor is small-minded and probably represents George I. George I was German and never learnt to speak English. He was reputed to be vain, like the emperor, who needs long introductions and fancy title to boost his ego. In Lilliput, Swift also introduces the idea that the stature of a human is proportional to the generosity, kindness, and wisdom of a human, contrary to Gulliver's expectations. At the start of his second voyage, he even says, "Human creatures are observed to be more savage and cruel in proportion to their bulk". ...read more.

Middle

Gulliver then says that the king must be excused because he is so far from the rest of the world that his standards could not fit in our country. Even though Swift portrays Brobdingnag as a sort of Utopia, and it is by far the most civilised place Gulliver visits, it is not perfect. The dictionary defines 'Utopia' as "an ideal and perfect place or state where everyone lives in harmony and everything is for the best". There is still crime in Brobdingnag, because Gulliver himself watches the execution of a murderer, and there are still bad people, as in every society, like the dwarf, who drops Gulliver in a bowl of cream. Perhaps Swift is saying that even the best human societies cannot be truly perfect, because of the nature of humanity; some people are born bad. This is at odds with the thinking of the time, when people optimistically thought that human nature was basically good. Swift is suggesting that this is untrue. Gulliver's next voyage is to Laputa. Swift uses Laputa to show his opinion of the (then) current obsession with scientific knowledge and learning. The Laputians are so deep in thought all the time that they have to employ 'flappers' to bring them back into a conversation by flapping them on the ears and mouth. They are unable to carry out a conversation, or do anything physical, without a flapper. Because of this, their wives and daughters escape to the mainland underneath Laputa whenever they can, and some do not come back. ...read more.

Conclusion

This would be impossible in a human society, as nobody would trade his or her own child. The closest a human society gets to this is in Lilliput, one of the most ridiculous countries Gulliver visits, where the children only see their parents for a few days a year, and live communally the rest of the time. Swift may be suggesting, by making this happen in Lilliput, that it is a bad idea, and that parents should keep their own children, even at the cost of society. the Land of the Houyhnhnms shows that a 'perfect society' is possible, but as Swift chooses to compose it of horses, with humans as a hindrance to it, he is probably suggesting that because of the nature of humans, we cannot possibly have an entirely perfect society, we can only try, as in Brobdingnag. In conclusion, Swift uses each setting to emphasis one or more of humanity's flaws. In Lilliput, he demonstrates pride in the Lilliputians, in Brobdingnag he shows us the stupidity of the vanity of the women by pointing out all their blemishes from close up ("Their Skins appeared so coarse and uneven, so variously coloured, when I saw them near, with a Mole here and there as broad as a Trencher, and Hairs hanging from it thicker than Pack-threads, to say nothing further concerning the rest of their Persons.") In his third voyage, the thirst for knowledge and immortal life is ridiculed, and in the Land of the Houyhnhnms, everything Swift has said so far is confirmed, in the disgusting Yahoos. ?? ?? ?? ?? - 1 - ...read more.

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