Gulliver's Travels Questions and Answers
by Jonathan Swift

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Analyze Swift's use of satire in Gulliver's Travels.

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'Gulliver's Travels'by Jonathon Swift is often thought of a children's book, yet it's unmerciful satire is aimed at adults. In this book he attempted to critcize some of the elements of the establishment and society he lived in through poking fun at it. He also wrote essays and pamphlets which outlined his grievances in a more direct way, but satire is often admired as a far more subtle and effective form of social critique as people are so often laughing at themselves. This art was not lost on some of his more enlightened contemporaries and he was often 'put down' by royal, establishment and government agencies. Any analysis of Swift's use of satire must pay attention to the way in which he attempted to disguise ferocious criticism by couching it in the seemingly ludicrous, comic or ridiculous.

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One could write page after page analyzing Swift's use of satire in Gulliver's Travels.  Specifically, some of his targets are religious schisms, politicians, a hawkish war mentality, and gambling.  In general, he targets political, social, and economic institutions. Even more broadly, he is ridiculing human vice and folly.  Swift's methods of achieving this satire are numerous.  He mixes obvious parallels between his fictional world and his European world with more disguised parallels (in description of the big-endian issue and the channel that separates Lilliput from Blefuscu), for instance.  He also uses much verbal irony, as when he contradicts the evidence contained in the work itself by describing England as, "...the seat of virtue, piety, honor and truth,..."  Swift's targets and methods might be two places to start when analyzing his satire in Gulliver's Travels.

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