Many people claim that Gulliver’s Travel is a book for children. But if to look deeper and discover what is hidden beneath the surface not even a child, but an adult can find it difficult to reveal all the allusions and personifications implied in this novel. The aim of this paper is to distinguish the features of a fairy-tale and to find out the most important issues introduced by Jonathan Swift and to explain some allegories.
Gulliver’s Travel has many characteristics of a fairy tale. First of all, although all the events have underlying idea they are imaginary. By using allegories the author gives us a hint how to draw a parallel between the world of Gulliver’s travels and reality. Fairy tale creates pure images and simplified characters. Heroes are either good or bad. There is no ambivalence. For example, the antagonist Gulliver is depicted as openhearted, naïve and always ready for new adventures. Contrary to him citizens of Lilliput, Brobdingnag and Laputa are full of negative features.
The writer exposes social contradictions in his novel, creating the overall image of the country. This idea runs through all four chapters of the book. We can see England or even Europe from different prospective. Thus, tiny citizens of Lilliput, ugly residents of Laputa and disgusting Yahoos from the country of Houyhnhnms are fantastic and satiric personifications of Europeans and their vices.
There are several issues that are allegorically depicted in the work of Jonathan Swift; among them we can distinguish political, social, religious, educational, scientific and personal problems.The issue of politics can be seen through the description of political parties in Lilliput. Parties of Tramecksan and Slamecksan or parties of the high and low heels imply British parties of Tory and Whig (Swift 51). Some of them support old system while the others prefer to introduce something new. Another comments on the political situation we can see in the conversation between the king of Brobdingnag and Gulliver, the ruler supposes that the history of England “…was only a heap of conspiracies, rebellions, murders, massacres, revolutions, banishments, the very worst effects that avarice, faction, hypocrisy, perfidiousness, cruelty, rage, madness, hatred, envy, lust, malice, and ambition, could produce” (163).
Gulliver’s adventures illustrate the drawbacks of society. In the third chapter of Gulliver’s Travel to the Lilliput we can see an episode with rope-dancers (38). Among the shows that emperor wanted to present for Gulliver there was dancing on the rope, performed by the candidates for great employments. Here we can find an ironical allusion on the society, where everyone neglects education, skills and knowledge and tries to show off, be impudent and jump as high as possible. There is a strong contempt for the power and rulers in the depiction of emperor’s chamber and leaping over the stick (40). The residents of Laputa have other problem: “they are so perpetually alarmed with the apprehensions of these, and the like impending dangers, that they can neither sleep quietly in their beds, nor have any relish for the common pleasures and amusements of life” (206). Examining this example, one can find a model of European community that cannot find peace and repose.
Jonathan Swift also found a place to describe the disagreements between religious denominations. In the novel they are represented as Big-endians and Small-endians. The cornerstone of disagreement lies in a dilemma of braking eggs (52). It is known that a lot of denominations appeared because of certain traditions of minor importance that in general do not influence the faith. However, a lot of people were passionate about the details, like on what end to break eggs while forgetting about the most significant ones.
The other sphere of the author’s ironical allusion is education. The citizens of Laputa are involved in scientific activity which is completely absurd and meaningless, for example extracting sunbeams from cucumbers (224), softening marble for use in pillows (228), learning how to mix paint by smell and uncovering political conspiracies by examining the excrement of suspicious persons. It is obvious that Swift criticizes education and science that has no practical use.
Such notion as size is brightly illustrated in the first two parts of the book, A Voyage to Lilliput and A Voyage to Brobdingnag. In the first case, there is a problem of a “big” person. Although Lilliputs are small, they used to talk about themselves as great and courageous people. In fact, not their bodies are small, but their souls are limited and poor, their characters are coward and hypocritical and their lifestyle is full of affection and pathos. Therefore Gulliver or man-mountain is described contrary to small people as a person with a great and kind soul. In the second case, the country of Brobdingnag is inhabited by giants and the correlation of body and soul is completely opposite. Although Gulliver is small, his moral assets are higher than foolishness of giants. It is also worth mentioning that a lot of fairy-tale writers raised the issue of size, for example in Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carol or Tom Thumb by brothers Grimm. If you are too small or too big it is hard to fit in the society and to follow all the standards. It is not always because of height or size, but because of the inner state of mind.
In addition to all stated above, it is important to distinguish one more feature of a fairy-tale like overcoming troubles and going through hardships. It can be called a heroic quest. Every time Gulliver gets into another situation and needs to adjust to new conditions and overwhelm calamities. Whether it is Lilliput or the country of giants, a lot of will power, strength and courage are needed not to give up and continue being whom you are.
In conclusion, I want to say that Jonathan Swift raises a lot of burning issues in the novel Gulliver’s Travel, including political situation, social problems, religious disagreements, incompetence of education, aimlessness of science and self-comprehension. Moreover he uses a lot of allusions, personifications and other devices of a fairy-tale to support and develop his ideas.