The theme of human nature in Gulliver's Travels

A discussion of Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”, focussing on the main character and the theme of human nature

Gulliver’s Travels In Jonathan Swift’s, “Gulliver’s Travels”, The main character, Gulliver comments extensively on the nature of man and his flaws. The character of Gulliver only brings up Swift’s misgivings about humans. The characters that Gulliver reacts with reveal Swift’s stance on many moral and ethical issues. One such issue is that of sin. Swift constantly depicts characters as satires upon their real counterparts and often focusing on expressing one sin in particular.

Swift in particular is extremely critical of one’s Pride, and chooses to express this flaw in man most often. He begins by showing the absurdity of possessing too much pride with examples from the Lilliputians. The pride that the emperor takes in his name demonstrates the frivolous nature of pride. The emperor is called, “Golbasto Molmaren Evlame Gurdilo Shefin Mully Ully Gue.

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”(52) This is an obvious satire on the long titles that many members of the nobility carried in the 17th century to distinguish themselves. Both the length and the style of this name mean to show the error in excessively priding one’s name. With equal absurdity, pride is found as the basis for the enmity between the Lilliputians and the Blefescuns. It is entirely based on the pride with which they break their eggs. Although still absurd, this time the consequence of pride has a serious undertone, as it is stated “that eleven thousand persons have, at several times, suffered death, rather than submit to break their eggs at the smaller end.

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”(59)

Swift, although not yet in an all at attack upon sin, is already suggesting that those guilty of pride deserve to die. His tirade of pride begins in the land of he Houynhnhmns. He tells his master in the excessiveness and wastefulness of pride. He explains that the inefficiency with which English females keep their pride in the tea they consume. He explains that they pride so much the quality of the tea they drink that they charter merchants to circle the globe “at least three times round, before one of our better female Yahoos could get her breakfast or a cup to put it in.”(270) Here Swift’s satire becomes very corrosive as he has the Houynhnmns asking very sarcastic questions that attack the pride of the English nobility. He wonders, “how such vast tracts of ground… should be wholly without fresh water, and the people put to the necessity of sending over the sea for a drink.”(270)

Swift is pointing out the wastefulness that Pride causes. It induces people to go to extravagant ends to acquire trivial luxuries such as tea and bottled water. Swift then assaults the nobility by saying , “in order to feed the luxury and intemperance of the males and the vanity (pride) of the females, we sent away the greatest part of our necessary things to other countries, from whence in return we brought the materials of diseases, folly, and vice, to spend among ourselves.”(271)

Swift is at his satiric and sarcastic worst. He asserts the entire nobility is guilty of pride and wasteful and excessive, and in effect should die from those “materials of disease.” Swift justifies all these assertions, because they come out of the mouth of his character, Gulliver, who is generally devoid of pride. He walks in Lilliput knowing his breaches to be “in so ill a condition,”(51) and he suffers for a time the humility of being carried around in a box as a spectacle. Truly, Gulliver can tell show the fault of pride from his success, and survival in being without pride.

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The theme of human nature in Gulliver's Travels. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/gullivers-travels-new-essay

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