How does Jonathan Swift's satire Gulliver's Travels give us the impression that Swift himself is a misanthrope?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Although Lemuel Gulliver, the eponymous protagonist of Jonathan Swift's satire Gulliver's Travels, goes on four different voyages, he never meets either societies or individuals that turn out to be completely admirable. In fact, in all of his voyages two things happen. First, he observes and is somewhat disappointed in the various strange peoples he meets and second, as he tries to explain England to these strangers, he becomes increasingly aware of the faults of England itself.

The voyage to Lilliput satirizes petty politics and backstabbing, holding up a mirror to the intrigues of the English court. In the conflict over the conventions of egg-eating, Swift attacks the religious controversies of his period.

If in the miniature people of Lilliput Swift satirizes politics and petty intrigues, in the giants of Brobdingnagian we get an expression of revulsion at the human body and its carnal nature. Although the kingdom itself is well run, it lacks self-awareness of human frailty, something that Gulliver has impressed upon him by disparities of scale.

The third voyage takes on the problem of theoretical or metaphysical speculation, showing that it can lead to impracticality.

The fourth voyage lands Gulliver in a kingdom of rational horses that resembles Plato's Republic. Humans, or "Yahoos," exist as slaves to the intelligent horses. As Gulliver learns more about the culture, he realizes that the brutal and degraded Yahoos really are just like the humans he knows at home. It is with this realization that the nascent misanthropy of the earlier chapters becomes an overt critique of all of humanity, or full-blown and overt misanthropy. The lack of any redemption, and the ending in which Gulliver refuses all human contact, argue for the misanthropy being the author's point of view. An author who was not a misanthrope would probably have introduced some more positive treatments of humanity.

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