By the end of Book II in Gulliver’s Travels, it is very clear that the character of Gulliver is not the same man who wrote the letter in the beginning of the story. In fact, he is not the same man he was in Book I. From the onset of Gulliver’s Travels, Swift creates for us a seemingly competent character and narrator in Gulliver. In his account we learn how his adventures have changed him and his perception of people, for the central theme of this story is how human nature and reason reflect society. Throughout the novel, the character, Gulliver changes his attitudes and his perceptions of people because of the different attitudes and perceptions of the different societies of Lilliput and Brobdingnag.
On the whole, Gulliver is a very frustrating character to deal with for a number of reasons. For example, he’s not steady; this unsteadiness as a narrator leads us to question the validity of what Gulliver tells us. This means that we have to be on our guard against what he says, and even though he’s our guide, we can’t follow him everywhere, which is just what Swift wanted. Gulliver makes many apologies for himself and his actions and puts us the reader emotionally involved in the story. Gulliver seems to direct a good deal of hostility toward us, creating a tinge of hostility back at him. Ultimately, Gulliver works as a narrator because we can relate to him and as a result find him engaging. We too can jump from emotion to emotion, but in the long run, Swift is not attempting to create an Everyman. This Gulliver is not, by any means a wholly allegorical character, but as much an individual as the next person. In certain ways, Gulliver proves to be more resilient than the average man is by managing to survive the disastrous shipwrecks and people so foreign they might as well be aliens. Still in other ways Gulliver is a naïve person, bereft of decency and consideration.
Gulliver is an entirely credible and probable person at the same time that he is precisely the person to be the instrument for Swift’s satire. In his incredible circumstances, Gulliver shows himself to be very resourceful and observant of his surroundings. With that he changes in relation to the places he visits and the events that befall him as he voyages.
Analysis of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels
Many of the critics who have critiqued Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels have used the word extraneous more then once. Swift was viewed as an insane person who was a failure in life. But this is far from the truth. Swift wrote Gulliver’s Travels, a book that has been assigned to students for years, and it is written from experience. Swift’s experience with the Tories and their conflicts with the Whigs caused him to write books that mock religious beliefs, government, or people with views differing from his own. In one of these books, Gulliver’s Travels, Swift criticizes the corruption of the English government, society, science, religion, and man in general.
In Gulliver’s first travel, in which he visited Lilliput, Gulliver is faced with the minute people, called Lilliputians. Now while this is the premise for a fantasy story, Swift uses the events within to make severe criticisms of England between reigns of Queen Anne and George the first. The people of Lilliput are about six inches tall, and there size signifies that their motives, acts, and humanity are in the same, dwarfish (Long 276). In this section, the royal palace is accidentally set on fire, containing the empress inside. Instead of making his way across town, to the ocean, squashing the people of Lilliput as he goes, Gulliver makes use of his urine to save the palace. While this vulgar episode was a display of bravery, it infuriated the emperor, causing revenge to be vowed on Gulliver. Rather then be happy that both the emperor and the palace are not in ruin, the littleness of the government and the
people in general is displayed in this act. Another display of this is the fact that Gulliver is used as the Emperor’s absolute weapon, but the emperor only uses him to conquer his world of two islands. This makes the emperor’s ambition seem extremely low (Bloom, Interpretations 84-5).
Swift also criticizes the religious beliefs of the Lilliputians and England in the first story. In Lilliput, Ministers were chosen strictly on agility, or their ability to walk a tightrope or stick jumping. They were able to maintain their rank of minister as long as they could keep these defeating these tasks (Swift, Writings 89).
The political parties of the English government are represented by the conservative High Heels who depict the Tories, and the progressive Low Heels, or Whigs.