Gulliver's Travels Questions and Answers
by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver's Travels book cover
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What were the targets of Swift's satire in Gulliver's Travels?

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Many have pointed out how Swift uses Gulliver's Travels to satirize specific institutions of his day, be it the British parliament, political factions in government, the monarchy, or the Royal Society. All of this is true, but it misses the larger picture: what Swift satirizes are ways of thinking that keep people from treating other people humanely. This can include petty, small-minded behavior that cares, as the Lilliputians do, more about silly things like which way to crack an egg than about kindness to the people around them. It can mean killing people to carry out a silly experiment at the Grand Academy in Lagado. It can mean becoming cold blooded and rationalistic as the Houyhnhnms sometimes do. It can mean fighting the pointless, bloody wars with guns and cannons that the Europeans do: this horrifies the King of Brobdingnag.

Swift offers so much satire that it important to get to his core point. By showing the senseless cruelty of so many varieties of behavior, Swift is pleading...

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