Discuss Gulliver's Travels as a satire.  

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Satire pokes fun at social problems and human weaknesses, often using exaggeration.

In Gulliver's Travels , Swift pokes fun at the human tendency to equate physical beauty with moral beauty and physical ugliness with being a morally bad person. The tiny, dainty, pretty Lilliputians seem doll-like and good at first...

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Satire pokes fun at social problems and human weaknesses, often using exaggeration.

In Gulliver's Travels, Swift pokes fun at the human tendency to equate physical beauty with moral beauty and physical ugliness with being a morally bad person. The tiny, dainty, pretty Lilliputians seem doll-like and good at first but turn out to be petty, nasty, cruel, and vindictive people who focus on trivial things. The huge and therefore ugly people of Brobdingnag are actually more kind and compassionate (though not excessively so). The king, for instance, is quite shocked as the naive Gulliver earnestly describes the way war is waged in Europe with bombs and guns.

Gulliver's trip to the Grand Academy at Lagado, where he witnesses vast resources spent on useless experiments, such as making marble soft so it can be used in pillows and trying to extract sunlight from cucumbers, satirizes the experiments going on in the British Royal Society.

The rational society of the Houyhnhnms, who are horses, and the barbaric, savage society of the human Yahoos that the Houyhnhnms despise satires human pretensions of being civilized and better than other animals. The Houyhnhnms actually behave with much greater rationality than either Yahoos or European humans and are shocked by the behavior Gulliver describes in Europeans. However, Swift also satirizes the extreme rationalism and lack of human emotion in the Houyhnhnms. Finally, Swift pokes fun at Gulliver's behavior in going overboard in his extreme reaction to being back in England, such as his wanting to sleep in a stable and talk to horses.

These are just a few examples of satire in Gulliver's Travels: the work is many layered and satirizes both the broader human condition and specific political events of his time.

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Satire is a literary device used to expose the shortcomings of individuals, governments, and societies. Authors may use satire in the form of humor, insults, hyperbole, understatement, and ridicule to reinforce particular points. Swift certainly uses satire in Gulliver's Travels to give vent to his frustrations about volatile human nature, inept governments, and biased scientists. For this question, I will discuss Swift's satire against pointless religious or politically-based conflicts.

In the book, Swift satirizes the political enmity between France and England through his recounting of Gulliver's experiences in Lilliput. There, Gulliver finds that he is the only giant in a land of tiny inhabitants. He is captured by his curious hosts but manages to earn his release after his petitions for liberty are accepted by the Lilliputian government. Part of the terms of his release involves his responsibility of fighting for Lilliput should it be attacked by Blefuscu, Lilliput's sworn enemy.

In this first part of Gulliver's journey, Swift satirizes the long enmity between England and France on the global stage, Tories and Whigs in the English parliament, and Protestants and Catholics within England's social structure. He criticizes the absurd and pointless antagonism between these parties by offering up ridiculous rationales for them. For example, the enmity between Big-Endians and Little-Endians is based on arbitrary differences about the correct way to crack hard-boiled eggs. Because his son cut his hand while breaking his eggs on the big end, the previous emperor of Lilliput stipulated that everyone must crack their eggs on the small end. Many Lilliputians disagreed and rebelled; at least 11,000 rebels were executed, and many sought refuge in Blefuscu.

Swift uses the ridiculous arguments about big ends and little ends to satirize the equally absurd enmity between the Protestants and Catholics of his time. Catholic monarchs like Queen Mary 1 ("Bloody Mary") executed Protestants during her reign, and the Protestant Queen Elizabeth, although initially tolerant of Catholics, turned against those very subjects when a faction of devout Catholics challenged her right to the English throne. It seemed that the main point of contention between Protestants and Catholics arose from differences in worship.

The Catholics differed from the Protestants in their beliefs about how communion should be celebrated, whether priests should be intermediaries between God and man, whether church services should be held in Latin or the language of the people, or whether priests should remain celibate or marry. Swift felt that it was absurd for both sides to war against the other based on such inconsequential differences. In the story, he draws attention to the absurdity of religious wars by offering up a spurious theological reason for the schism between Big-Endians and Little-Endians. At the heart of the conflict is a disagreement about the right way to interpret certain religious principles.

During the course of these troubles, the emperors of Blefuscu did frequently expostulate by their ambassadors, accusing us of making a schism in religion, by offending against a fundamental doctrine of our great prophet Lustrog, in the fifty-fourth chapter of the Blundecral (which is their Alcoran). This, however, is thought to be a mere strain upon the text; for the words are these: ‘that all true believers break their eggs at the convenient end.’ 

Likewise, Swift satirizes the enmity between Tories and Whigs by highlighting the ridiculous rationale behind the Tramecksan and Slamecksan hostilities. So, the above examples represent some of Swift's many satires throughout Gulliver's Travels.

 

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There simply isn't enough room here to fully discuss GT as a satire.  That having been said, Gulliver's Travels satirizes many things in English society.  A "satire" makes fun of things by making them seem absurd.

Swift does this with every day life (the Lilliputs who aregue about which end of the egg to break--the big end or the little end), politicians (the Lilliputs who walk tight ropes to get positions, etc.), science (the residents of the flying island who consider themselves so intelligent and scientific that they have to whop each other with nerf bats to get their attention), and basic human behavior (the hyoughnyms...horses... who are much more logical and positive than the yahoos...people).

There are many other issues that are targeted in order to draw attention to them as ridiculous, outrageous, or simply something that should be addressed or improved in society.  Check the link below to find some of the other targets of satire.

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