Jonathan Swift and "Gulliver's Travels"

Jonathan Swift was the greatest of English satirists. His bitter satire was aimed at the contemporary social order in general and the policy of the English bourgeoisie towards the Irish in particular. That is why the Irish people considered Swift their champion in the struggle for the welfare and freedom of their country.
Jonathan Swift was born in Dublin, but he came from an English family. The writer's father, supervisor at the court buildings of Dublin, died at the age of twenty-five, leaving his wife and daughter penniless. His son was born seven months after his death, on November 30, 1667. He was named Jonathan after his late father.
The boy knew little of his mother's care: she had to go back to her native town of Leicester and Jonathan hardly ever saw her during his childhood. He was supported by his uncle Godwin. At the age of six he was sent to Kilkenny School, which he left at fourteen. Then he entered Trinity College in Dublin and got his bachelor's degree in 1686.
The Revolution of 1688 was followed by an uprising in Ireland, and Swift, being English, narrowly ^aped the vengeance of the Irish supporters of James n. He sailed over to England, and after many years, once again saw his mother in Leicester. With her help he became private secretary and account keeper to Sir William Temple at his estate not far from London. Sir William was a retired diplomat and also a writer.
At that time he made friends with Hester Johnson, the daughter of the housekeeper. He taught the little girl English spelling and gave her advice on reading. This friendship lasted all his life. Hester became the prototype of Stella in Swift's famous work "Journal to Stella". Having improved his education by taking advantage of Sir William's library, Swift went to Oxford and took his Master of Arts degree in 1692. After that he got the place of vicar at a little parish church in Ireland, where he remained for a year and a half. He wrote much and burnt most of what he wrote. Soon he got tired of his lonely life and returned to Sir William Temple's estate, where he continued to live and work until his patron's death in 1699.
After the death of Sir William, Swift became vicar again and went to live in a little place called Lracor, in Ireland. He invited Hester Johnson to come to his place. She had by then grown up into a beautiful young woman. It is believed that Swift secretly married Hester, but much of his private life is unknown to us.
In 1702 Swift came to London, where he was involved into contemporary events, which became the passion of his life. Swift often went to coffee-houses where he talked with the journalists and with common people. His contributions to "The Tatler", "The Spectator" and other magazines show how well he understood the spirit of the time. He described his conversations with the leaders of the English political parties in his "Letters to Stella".
In 1713 Swift was made Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin. At that time he came into contact with the common people and saw the miserable conditions in which the population lived. Swift wrote a number of pamphlets criticizing the colonial policy of England, intending thus to help the common people. He became very popular with the Irish people.
In 1726 Swift's masterpiece "Gulliver's Travels" appeared. His inventive genius and biting satire were at their best in this work, which made a great sensation.
In 1728 Stella {Hester) died after a long illness. This loss affected Swift so deeply that he was never the same man again.
Conditions in Ireland between 1700 and 1750 were so awful, that it worked like poison in Swift's blood He wrote a number of pamphlets in which he satirized those who caused the poverty of the Irish people.
Hard work and continuous disappointments undermined Swift's health. By the end of 1731 his mind was failing rapidly. In 1740 his memory and reason were gone and he became completely deaf. He died on the 19th of October, 1745, in Dublin.
In "Gulliver's Travels" Jonathan Swift satirized the evils of the existing society in the form of imaginary travels. The scenes and nations described in the book are so extraordinary and amusing, that the novel is a great favourite both with children and grown-ups. It tells of the adventures of a ship’s surgeon, as related by him, and is divided into four parts, or four voyages.

After being shipwrecked, Gulliver gets safely ashore and finds himself in a strange' country inhabited by a race of people about six inches high. By making them so small Swift stresses their insignificance and makes the reader despise them as petty creatures and feel contempt for their ideas, customs and' institutions Swift mocks at their Emperor, who boasts that he is the delight of the universe while in fact he is no taller than a nail.
It is easy to understand that Swift meant this small country with its shallow interests corrupt laws and evil customs to symbolize England of the 18th century, the government ("a great office"),the court with its atmosphere of hostility, hypocrisy and flattery where the author felt as lonely as his hero among the Lilliputians, and religious controversy.
Swift compares the courtiers with rope dancers: those who can jump the highest get the highest office.
Tramecksan and Slamecksan, the two political parties which differed only in the size of their heels, were invented by Swift to ridicule the Whigs and the Tories, who were always hostile to each other, though their political aims were almost the same.
In describing the war between Lilliput and Blefuscu, which was caused by disagreement concerning the manner of breaking eggs the author satirizes the religious controversy between Catholics and Protestants, their contradictions were as insignificant as those between Big-endians and Small-endians

The ship meets with a terrible storm and anchors near Brobdingnag, the land of the giants, to take in a supply of water. While on shore, Gulliver is captured by the giants. On the whole, they are good-natured creatures and treat Gulliver kindly, though they are amused by his small size and look upon him as a toy
Brobdingnag is an expression of Swift's desire to escape from the disgusting world of the Lilliputians and to find the ideal: an agricultural country ruled by an ideal monarch. The author creates such a monarch in the king of Brobdingnag. He is clever, honest, and kind to his people. He hates wars and wants to make his people happy. However, the king's character is not true to life. In this part we don't find the sharp and vivid satirical descriptions so typical of the story of the first voyage.

Describing Gulliver's voyage to Laputa, a flying island, Swift attacks monarchs whose policy brings nothing but suffering to their subjects. The king of Laputa has no consideration for his people, and does not think of them at all, except when he has to collect taxes from them. The flying or floating Wand helps the king to make the people of his dominions pay taxes and it also helps him to suppress rebellions.
Swift's indignation and the bitterness of his satire reach their climax when he shows the academy of sciences in Lagado, the city of the continent of Balnibarbi. The author touches upon all the existing sciences. Swift ridicules the scientists of his time, who shut themselves up in their chamber's, isolated from the world The members of the academy are busy inventing such projects as, for example, extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, building houses beginning with the roof and working downwards to the foundation; converting ice into gunpowder; softening marble for pillows and pin­cushions, etc.

The fourth voyage brings Gulliver to the ideal country of the Houyhnhnms, where there is neither sickness, dishonesty, nor any of the frivolities of human society The human race occupies a position of servility there and a noble race of horses rules the country with reason and justice. Swift made horses the embodiment of wisdom, because the expression "horse sense" is a synonym for "common sense" The horses possess virtues which are superior to those of men Unlike the Houyhnhnms, the Yahoos are ugly, deceitful, greedy and vicious creatures. Having much in common with human beings in appearance, they possess all the evil qualities one can think of.

Like all the writers of the period. Swift wanted to enlighten people, trying to share with them his opinion and judgment concerning men and things. In his works he addressed himself to the common people, whom he supported with all his heart. The great writer saw oppression, vice and misery all around, but did not know how to eliminate them. Swift did not see any sure way to make people happy, - hence his pessimism, - which led to bitterness and biting satire in the allegorical portrayal of contemporary life in "Gulliver's Travels".
Swift's ideas, as expressed in the novel had a great influence on the writers who came after him. The work has become popular in all languages. Like Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe", it has the merit both of amusing children and making grown-ups think.

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