Gulliver's Travels Questions and Answers
by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver's Travels book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What is Swift satirizing in Gulliver's Travels?

In Gulliver's Travels, Swift satirizes various aspects of English society, such as trivial theological debates, political corruption, and those who choose philosophy over reality.

Expert Answers info

Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write7,057 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business

Jonathan Swift was one of the leading satirists in English literature. In Gulliver's Travels, he satirizes many aspects of literature, politics, religion, and philosophy, even critiquing the "tall tale" or travel adventure story itself. 

Swift, who became Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, was especially concerned with the way that factions within the Church of England and the opposition of the Anglican Church to Roman Catholicism in Ireland had a negative effect on the church's greater mission of spreading Christianity and caring for the poor and oppressed. He viewed many of the theological and liturgical quibbles as silly. This attitude is reflected in his description of the Big-Endian/Little-Endian controversy.

Swift was also satirizing the prevalence of patronage and corruption in politics. When Gulliver first visits Lilliput, he observes a show in which aspiring politicians perform acrobatic tricks to gain political favor. This echoes his feeling that what really should...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 631 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Stephen Holliday eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write859 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

hbkhbk | Student

In Gulliver's Travels, Swift manages to satirize politicians, religion, science, society and even the king of his age.

During the first voyage, Swift satirizes political conditions when Gulliver comes to know that the king of Lilliput chooses his ministries not on the basis of their political skills but on their ability to dance on a tight rope.

He criticizes religious conditions when he comments on the Lilliputians' religious division between those who wear low-heeled and high-heeled shoes. and who open their eggs from the small and the large end.

The cultural satire comes in the fourth voyage where Gulliver goes to the land of Houyhnhnms. In fact, these Houyhnhnms are rational horses and their servants are Yahoos who are presented as human beings. The difference between Yahoos and Houyhnhnms allows Swift to criticize the nature of man more closely than in any other voyage.

In writing Gulliver's Travels, Swift had aimed at amending and correcting his public. He wanted to shock the people into a realization of their faults and failings.

Gulliver's Travels is an allegorical satire. this mean that Swift does not attack personalities and institutions directly but in a veiled manner.

In Gulliver's Travels, Gulliver especially singles out "pride" as the greatest defect of human being. When Gulliver has become an absolute and uncompromising hater of mankind and even of his own family, Swift is not to be identified with him. Here Swift seemed to be point out to us the dangers of extreme misanthropy.

Although Jonathan Swift criticized human being strictly, his aim was to alert mankind to their faults and failings.