What are some characteristics of human societies that Swift may be satirizing through the Lilliputians?

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iandavidclark3's profile pic

iandavidclark3 | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Jonathan Swift'sĀ Gulliver's TravelsĀ is a classic satire. One of its most famous satirical sequences occurs during Gulliver's first journey to the land of Lilliput. By chronicling Gulliver's travels through the land of the tiny people, Swift satirizes the pettiness of the European disputes of his day.

Like Europe, Lilliput is beset with petty squabbles that are far less important than the Lilliputians would like to admit. For instance, the fierce debate over high or low heels mirrors European political debates, while the argument over the proper method of eating an egg pokes fun at religious feuds. By framing all of these conflicts within the minute settings of Lilliput, Swift elegantly illustrates the inconsequentiality of society's primary conflicts. Though religious and political warfare often claims thousands of lives, Swifts says, it is actually as useless as the argument for high heels over low heels. Like the Lilliput people themselves, the conflicts that humans take to be monumental are actually small and silly.

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kc4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Gulliver's first journey to the land of the Lilliputs, like the subsequent journey-accounts, is a satiric indictment of human societies. Swift satirizes the petty party politics of the Lilliputians that keeps them fruitlessly engaged in all sorts of internal divisions and differences as much as external commotions, for example, the controversy between the high and the low heels, or the dispute with regard to which end of the egg--the big or the small--be broken before eating the egg. The Lilliputians engaged in strong acrimony and war with the neighbouring land of Blefuscu betrays the war-mongering aspect. Through Gulliver's experiences, Swift also satirizes the vices like envy and greed, almost cynically reflects upon human ingratitude. The land of the "small" is far from ideal, and the "smallness" is more endemic than accidental.

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