Uploaded by Epiphany Moment

Gullivers Travels and the Satiric Novel

The Satiric Novel
The features of Menippean Satire
 What is being satirised in this novel
 Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver’s
Man vs Society theme
 What is it to be human?
 Anglo-Irish Allegory
Tell all the truth but tell it slant —/Success in
Circuit lies/Too bright for our infirm
Delight/The Truth's superb surprise/As
Lightning to the Children eased/With
explanation kind/The Truth must dazzle
gradually/Or every man be blind —
(Emily Dickinson)
Named after Menippus (3 C BC)
Written in prose
Length of a novel
Critique of inherited myths
Uses parody and burlesque
General targets of the satire are types of
people and mindsets.
Both novels concern voyages to strange lands
Both works protest their true-to-life origins
Robinson Crusoe is more realistic
Defoe believes that man precedes society
Swift is more pessimistic about human
Man made worlds are criticised in Gulliver
Gulliver’s Travels can hardly be labelled a
novel at all, even at a time when the novel
form is quite nebulous. The book lacks an
overall unifying narrative force and whatever
unity it possesses does not revolve around
the development of character. Lemuel Gulliver
learns nothing from his adventures….[T]he
fictional world of Gulliver’s Travels is very
much concerned with exterior realities (Derek
Hand, A History of the Irish Novel, Oxford:
Oxford UP, 2011, P. 34)
Part 1: Lilliputians, six inches high, their feuds and
wars absurd
Part 2: Brobdingnag, whose king remarks: “I cannot
but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most
pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature
ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth”
His present Majesty’s grandfather, while he
was a boy, going to eat an egg, and breaking
it according to the ancient practice, happened
to cut one of his fingers. Whereupon the
Emperor his father published an edict,
commanding all his subjects, upon great
penalties, to break the smaller end of their
eggs (2512).
 If
the person accused makes his
innocence plainly to appear
during his trial, the accuser is
immediately put to an
ignominious death (2517).
I hope the reader will excuse me for dwelling
on these and the like particulars, which
however insignificant they may appear to
grovelling and vulgar minds, yet will certainly
help a philosopher to enlarge his thoughts
and imagination….wherein I have been chiefly
studious of truth, without affecting any
ornaments of learning or of style (2538).
“As for yourself”, continued the King, “who
have spent the greatest part of your life in
travelling, I am well disposed to hope you
may hitherto have escaped the many vices of
your country….I cannot but conclude the bulk
of your natives to be the most pernicious race
of little odious vermin that nature ever
suffered to crawl upon the surface of the
earth” (2562)
As I was on the road, observing the littleness
of the houses, the trees. The cattle, and the
people, I began to think myself in Lilliput, I
was afraid of trampling on every traveller I
met (2573).
The Flying Island of Laputa, and its
neighbouring continent, with its capital
 Satire on philosophers, scientists, historians,
and projectors. Flappers needed. Sunbeams
from cucumbers, etc.
 Island of Sorcerors, the lies of history
 The Struldbruggs, miserable immortals
It seems, the minds of these people are so
taken up with intense speculations, that they
neither can speak, or attend to the discourse
of others, without being roused by some3
external taction upon the organs of
speech…for which reason those who can
afford to do so keep a flapper (2574).
Their houses were very ill built, the walls
bevil, without one right angle in any
apartment; and this defect ariseth from the
contempt they bear for practical geometry;
which they despise as vulgar and mechanic,
those instructions they give being too
refined for the intellectuals of their
workmen; which occasions perpetual
mistakes (2576).
[A] scheme for entirely abolishing all words
whatsoever, and this was urged as a great
advantage in point of health as well as brevity. For
it is plain, that every word we speak is in some
degree a diminution of our lungs by corrosion….An
expedient was therefore offered, that since words
are only names for things, it would be more
convenient for all men to carry about them such
things as were necessary to express the particular
business they were to discourse on (2580)
If a struldbrugg happens to marry one of
his own kind, the marriage is dissolved of
course, by the courtesy of the kingdom, as
soon as the younger of the two comes to be
fourscore. For the law thinks it a reasonable
indulgence, that those who are condemned
without any fault of their own to a perpetual
continuance in the world, should not have
their misery doubled by the load of a wife
The reader will easily believe, that from what I
have heard and seen, my keen appetite for
perpetuity of life was much abated. I grew
heartily ashamed of the pleasing visions I had
formed,and thought no tyrant could invent a
death into which I would not run with
pleasure from such a life (2586).
 Yahoos:
 Houyhnhnms, reasonable horses.
 Disdain for human stupidity
 The absurdity of war
 Misanthropy?
Their heads and
breasts were
covered with a thick
black hair, some
frizzled and others
lank; they had
beards like goats,
and a long ridge of
hair down their
backs (2588).
 Upon
the whole, the behaviour of
these animals was so orderly and
rational, so acute and judicious,
that I at last concluded, they must
needs be magicians (2590).
The very existence of the Yahoos…poses
immense questions for the Houyhnhms, whose
politics are now so consensual that they have but
one remaining debate: whether or not to
exterminate the brutes [paraphrase of Joseph
Conrad’s Heart of Darkness ]. If they do that, of
course, they may abolish the very grounds of
their own being, for without the colonized, the
colonizer is a nobody…The Yahoos are both
intolerable and indispensable, a little like the
Catholic Irish under the Penal Laws (Declan
Kiberd, Irish Classics, London: Granta Books,
2000, 98).
 He
[the master] was convinced (as
he afterwards told me) that I must
be a Yahoo, but my
teachableness, civility, and
cleanliness astonished him; which
were qualities so opposite to
these animals (2595).
He added that he had heard too much
upon the subject of war, both in this
and some former discourses. There
was another point which a little
perplexed him at present….[T]hat the
law that is supposed to be for every
man’s preservation could be any
man’s ruin (2603).
I began last week to permit my wife to sit at dinner
with me, at the farthest end of a long table; and to
answer (but with the utmost brevity) the few
questions I ask her. Yet the smell of Yahoo
continuing very offensive, I always keep my nose
well stopped with rue….I have to make the society
of an English Yahoo by any means not
insupportable, and therefore I here entreat those
who have any tincture of this absurd vice [pride]
that they will not presume to appear in my sight
 Big—small
 Optimist—misanthrope
 Human—savage
 Sane—insanity
 Shift
in psychological perspectives
 Man
is least himself when he
is being sincere but give a
man a mask and he’ll tell you
the truth
Oscar Wilde (The Critic
as Artist).
Gulliver's story, too, conflates the power of
language with the language of power. Acts of
interpretation within Gulliver's Travels-acts of
creating and of reading, of inventing
characters and of becoming characters in the
fictions of others-signal both the text's
complex relations to truth and its readers'
unceasing stratagems for gaining power over
its meaning (Richard H.. Rodino ““Splendide
Mendax": Authors, Characters, and Readers in
Gulliver's Travels”. PMLA 106.5 (1991), 1056).
Is Gulliver a hero in this novel?
What critique of the Enlightenment is being
What insight into human nature is provided?
Does Gulliver change as a character?
How is the ending unusual?
Is Gulliver a reliable narrator?
Barry, Kevin. “Exclusion and Inclusion in Swift's
“Gulliver's Travels"”. The Irish Review (1986-) 30
(2003): 36–47. Web...
Bentman, Raymond. “Satiric Structure and Tone in
the Conclusion of Gulliver's Travels”. Studies in
English Literature, 1500-1900 11.3 (1971): 535–
548. Web...
Downie, J. A.. “Political Characterization in
‘Gulliver's Travels'”. The Yearbook of English
Studies 7 (1977): 108–120. Web...
Halewood, William H.. “Gulliver's Travels I, Vi”.
ELH 33.4 (1966): 422–433. Web...