What are some satirical quotations from Gulliver's Travels?

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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many of the best satirical quotations in Gulliver's Travels relate to Swift's insinuated political commentary. As someone cynically disillusioned by his own unhappy involvement in the world of politics, Swift's ill-concealed bitterness brings an added satirical bite to these quotations' impact upon the reader.

Of so little weight are the greatest services to princes, when put into the balance with a refusal to gratify their passions.

Gulliver is reflecting on the ingratitude of the Emperor of Lilliput, despite his having saved the Lilliputians from a Blefuscu invasion. He has refused to enslave the Blefuscudian prisoners at the Emperor's behest on moral grounds. The message here is that politics and morality do not always align; if you want to get on in the political world then be prepared to fawn and flatter your masters.

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.

Here we see the famous Lilliputian rope dance. Not only do you have to bow and scrape to get on at court, you also have to entertain the Emperor with this pointless, degrading exercise. But, if you succeed, the rewards are generous indeed. One can enjoy a well-paid, powerful position in the administration of the state. All one needs to do is jump the highest. Talent and ability do not enter into it. When the Emperor says "Jump!" one says "How high?" quite literally.

For, as to that infamous practice of acquiring great employments by dancing on the ropes, or badges of favour and distinction by leaping over sticks and creeping under them, the reader is to observe, that they were first introduced by the grandfather of the emperor now reigning, and grew to the present height by the gradual increase of party and faction.

The growth of party and faction within a political system is a dangerous development as it corrupts those within it, making them do silly things like the notorious rope dance.

But when some confessed they owed their greatness and wealth to sodomy, or incest; others, to the prostituting of their own wives and daughters; others, to the betraying of their country or their prince; some, to poisoning; more to the perverting of justice, in order to destroy the innocent, I hope I may be pardoned, if these discoveries inclined me a little to abate of that profound veneration, which I am naturally apt to pay to persons of high rank, who ought to be treated with the utmost respect due to their sublime dignity, by us their inferiors.

Here we see Glubbdubdrib, land of sorcerers. Through their magical powers the inhabitants are able to raise the dead, allowing Gulliver to chat with various famous historical personages, many of whom he greatly admires. But he quickly becomes disillusioned, drawing the conclusion that to achieve success in politics it is necessary to behave in an abominable fashion.

These quotations give us insight not just into how Swift regarded politics, but also the negative evaluation he placed on human nature in general.

gbeatty eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is a great deal of satire in "Gulliver's Travels." In fact, since the whole thing is intensely satirical, that makes it hard to pull out specific individual lines that are satire. (The satire is more in the content and the form as in specific lines.)


However, that said, here's a nice small example. In Chapter 2 of section on Lilliput, you'll find this line: " I had, as I before observed, one private Pocket which escaped their Search, wherein there was a pair of Spectacles (which I sometimes use for the weakness of mine Eyes)"

Since this is found directly after an official inventory of Gulliver's possessions by the government, it is a satirical comment on how much officials can miss. This is a giant with poor vision—and they can't even see his glasses!

shanoor | Student

the best satirical part is the end of the last chapter of the second voyage, where judges, soldiers, lawyers, politicians etc are severely criticised. if you talk of this portion it would be much better