Gulliver's giant feet walking in the diminuative forest of the lilliputians

Gulliver's Travels

by Jonathan Swift

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What technique does Swift use in Gulliver's Travels to produce satire?

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Satire pokes fun at weaknesses and problems in people and institutions.

In Gulliver's Travels, Swift pokes fun at the European tendency to be violent, to judge by surface appearances, to put vanity ahead of commonsense, and to generally behave irrationality.

Swift uses two tried and true methods to make us laugh at our own weaknesses: a clueless narrator and exaggeration.

Gulliver, as his name implies, is gullible. He accepts everything he hears on his travels and tends to repeat it verbatim without any questioning of how absurd it sounds. He also quite openly describes the absurdities and violence of European warfare and society and is surprised when his hosts, such as the king of Brobdingnag, find Europeans hopelessly barbaric and bloodthirsty.

Swift also exaggerates. His Lilliputians, for example, are externally attractive, tiny, doll-like people; and their minds are especially petty. This pokes fun both at thinking pretty people are good inside and at the similar pettiness of British politics to Lilliputians politics. His Brobdingnagians are excessively large, with pores on their skin so big they repulse Gulliver, but with big hearts in comparison to the Lilliputians. They may not be particularly good people, but they are better than the prettier Lilliputians.

Meanwhile, Swift's thinkers and scientists at the Academy of Lagado perform experiments that are obviously exaggeratedly pointless, such as extracting sunbeams from cucumbers. This satirizes the British Royal Academy, which spent money on what many considered pointless research.

Swift wants us to laugh at the rampant cluelessness and irrationality we witness, but also to think about how we might be similarly clueless and irrational as a society.

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The purpose of satire is to expose the folly of aspects of society in which the writer finds in need of change.

The techniques of satire include hyperbole, slapstick, incongruity, and irony. Swift is a master at weaving these techniques into his work. For example, in book one Gulliver agrees to demands on his freedom when he clearly could destroy all of the citizens of Liliput if he wanted to. This example of situational irony is Swift's way of pointing out the ineffective nature of the "modern man" which Gulliver represents. Also notice the scene where Gulliver urinates on the queen's palace to put out a fire. The outrageous nature of this act and the object of the satire should be somewhat obvious. Topically, Swift was criticizing Queen Anne and her distace for Swift's work. He is using a gross exaggeration (hyperbole) to prove a point.

His most biting satire in the book is when Gulliver travels to the land of the Yahoos. It is at this point that Gulliver realizes that he is nothing but a Yahoo and he can never fully recover from the shock.

Another text by Swift which has good example of the above mentioned satirical techniques in "A Modest Proposal."

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The satirical technique Swift uses "Gulliver's Travels" is to attack modernity. He is concerned about the increasing power of Europe throughout the world, the pettiness of the...

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elite, and the growing focus on money for fulfillment in life.

Swift makes the reader consider these problems by just the things you mention in your note: reductionism, absurdism, and defamiliarization. Reductionism takes large problems and reduces them to small ones. For example, we see how foolish and petty the Lilliputions act as they battle with the neighboring country over nothing at all. Their squabbling is reflective, reducing the problems of European colonization of the world in this microcosm.

Absurdism in found everywhere in this book, from beginning to end, whether it is the relatively giant Gulliver being tied up by the diminutive Lilliputians and subdued by their annoying arrows, Gulliver being transported in a doll house in Brobdingnag, talking horses or men reduced to apes.

The absurdism is used to defamiliarize the reader and make him/her see the real situations with new eyes. Like all satire, the parallels to the real world will be more powerful when realization that "this is us" finally hits.

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