Gulliver's time in Lilliput and Brobdingnag allow Swift to use the size of the inhabitants as a proxy for their moral, political, and intellectual development. The small size of the Lilliputians yields equally small minds and spirits, and the gigantic Brobdingnagians are, like their bodies, expansive in intellect and morals....
Gulliver's time in Lilliput and Brobdingnag allow Swift to use the size of the inhabitants as a proxy for their moral, political, and intellectual development. The small size of the Lilliputians yields equally small minds and spirits, and the gigantic Brobdingnagians are, like their bodies, expansive in intellect and morals. And the visits in Books I and II give Swift the opportunity to satirize the society of his native Great Britain, its government, and King William by the implicit comparison and contrast among the three monarchies.
In Lilliput, where Gulliver dwarfs the inhabitants, the Lilliputians are as spiritually and politically stunted as are their bodies. When he is observing the political machinations in the Lilliputian court, for example, he sees that the King's ministers are not appointed on the basis of their intellectual and moral qualifications or their desire to make the lives of the king's subjects better, but their successful rise to power is dependent upon their ability to walk a tightrope:
When a great office is vacant, either by death or disgrace (which often happens), five or six of those candidates petition the emperor to entertain his majesty and the court with a dance on the rope; and whoever jumps the highest, without falling, succeeds in the office.
Swift is satirizing the court of William and the king's tendency to choose his ministers on the basis of their influence and wealth rather than their inherent intellectual or moral worth. He continues this satire in his depiction of the Lilliputian religious controversy—two factions (Catholic and Protestant) in a bitter dispute over which end of an egg to crack first, a dispute in which thousands have died, mirroring the history of Catholic and Protestant violence in Great Britain.
When Gulliver arrives in Brobdingnag, a country populated by giants and in which he is now the Lilliputian, he discovers a society that is populated by gentle, rational people and governed by a benign monarch. When Gulliver eventually has a chance to discuss governmental policy with the King of Brobdingnag, who is curious about Gulliver's country, Gulliver somewhat naively extolls the powers exercised by Great Britain in its relations with the rest of Europe, to which the Brobdingnagian King replies in horror:
‘it 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.’
His reaction, although stunning Gulliver into silence, is a summary of those aspects of 18th century Great Britain that Swift, as a keen observer of his society, its religious controversies, and the monarchy of the Williams, found most damaging.
The differences between Lilliput and Brobdingnag, starting with their respective physical attributes, are stark—the former is characterized by viciousness in every aspect of life, the latter by magnanimity—but both serve as a mirror to Swift's primary target in these two voyages: Great Britain and its monarch.