Perfect Society in Gulliver's Travels Research Paper

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There are several examples in the text, like when Gulliver must urinate on a fire to put it out or when the scientist in Lagado attempts to turn human waste back into food. Swift is showing us that we can preach what we want to about mankind and his spirituality, but the bottom line is that mankind is dirtier than all of that, we just choose not to see it; or rather, we come up with theories to ignore the realities of life.

Earlier, it was mentioned that the Houyhnhnms were the closest to a utopian society in the text, so it is interesting to consider the fact that this is a society that is made up of non-human creatures. This point is important in understanding Swift's message, as well as his criticism of England: only non-human creatures are capable of creating and living in a utopia. He seems to be implying that there is something in the human race that will always breed conflict and thus unhappiness.

Though Swift had changed from the Whig party to the Tory party, he still manages to criticize the monarchy in Gulliver's Travels. Recall that there was conflict that erupted between Lilliput and Blefuscu concerning the proper way to break an egg after an emperor, years earlier, had cut his finger on an eggshell.

Whereupon the emperor, his father, published an edict, commanding all his subjects, under great penalties, to break the smaller end of their eggs. The people so highly resented this law, that our histories tell us, there have been six rebellions raised on that account; wherein one emperor lost his life, and another his crown" (Swift & Rivero 128).

This silly conflict is symbolic of the many silly conflicts in England, especially because most of the conflict had to do with what was "proper" and what was not. The war between Lilliput and Blefuscu tended to focus on which end of the egg to crack and how to decide which end was the smallest. When Swift describes Lilliput, it really doesn't sound all that different from England. The description of the government, particularly, sounds like it has the same problems as English government (conflicts over silly issues, the tendency to over-regulate the more trite elements in life, etc.); however, the Lilliputians do have some beliefs in place that allow their society to be more "perfect" or utopian, especially in comparison to England.

The Lilliputians are quite progressive and though their society is not the utopia that Gulliver is hoping to find, in a way the Lilliputian society is the closest, perhaps, that humans could get to living in a utopian society. The Lilliputians, like England, have a very well-established class system (similar to the one that is in England). There is a monarchy, aristocracy, and peasants, however, there also seems to be a greater respect for the elder members of society.

Whoever can there bring sufficient proof that he has strictly observed the laws of his country for seventy-three moons, has a claim to certain privileges, according to his quality and station in life, with a proportionable sum of money out of a fund appropriated for that use" (Swift & Rivero 143).

This shows that there is a great respect for the elder community and it also shows that this is a society that chooses to not just look for those whom are doing wrong and punish them, but it tries to look for those whom are doing good and looks to reward them. The reward gives payment for good behavior and thus it pays off to be a good citizen in Lilliput. Another interesting fact, differing from England, is that the good behavior that is awarded to an individual is not passed down to one's children; it is only for the individual who has earned it by being a good citizen. This gets rid of class privileges and it is a statement from Swift because in England, many privileges were inherited rather than earned and this created a very rich class that had an inclination toward idleness and a lack of concern for the future of society. In England, those who inherited wealth didn't have to ever worry because they knew that they would be taken care of with the old money. There is an aristocracy in Lilliput, however, there is also the idea that a person's class or status is as dependent on their personal qualities and talents as is placed on their wealth and/or status in society. This is a good example of how one can attain a more utopian society. It has the elements of the English society but filled with a better incentive for a person to attain a certain status or position in society.

The theme of utopia is a constant one throughout Swift's novel and it is at least somewhat present in all of the societies that Gulliver discovers. As aforementioned, the Lilliputians are the ones who offer the most "do-able" form of a utopian society, however, the fact that Swift makes the Houyhnhnms mythical sort of horse creatures makes one think that there are ways to a utopian society that are outside the normal boundaries of thinking. Both societies have their positive aspects and perhaps Swift was trying to point out the fact that there is not one perfect society, but there are new and interesting ideas that England could adopt in order to perfect its society. Rewarding people for good behavior, rather than punishing for bad, putting people on more equal ground, and not allowing a society where people are glorified not on their own merits are just some of the ideas that Swift is offering. The main point of Gulliver's Travels was not to put down England, but rather, to point out where England could improve by illustrating some of the silliest aspects of their government and people. As a member of the Tory party, his stance was not against a monarchy or an aristocracy, yet he seemed to be against the idea of people being measured based on their inheritance in life.

While Gulliver's Travels seems to go against what the Enlightenment thinkers of his time were philosophizing about, Swift is offering a work that fits in with this time as it is a satirical perspective on Enlightenment thought. Swift manages to depict a man who is completely soul-less; he has lost his way in the world and he is desperately searching to find it again. Because Swift doesn't give his protagonist the dreams and the emotions to deal with his life, he is saying that without these things, one will never find their utopia.

Works Cited

Fox, Christopher B. Gulliver's Travels (Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism.

Bedford/St. Martin's; 1st edition, 1994.

Fox, Christopher B. The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Swift. New York:

Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Hinnant, Charles H. Purity and Defilement in Gulliver's Travels. New York: St. Martin's

Press, 1987.

Jacobe, Monica F. "Society Cannot Be Flat: Hierarchy and Power in Gulliver's Travels."

Nebula,6(1), 2009. Web 19 Nov. 2010.

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Jones, Dorothy. "Journeys and Pilgrimages: Marion Halligan's Fictions."

Antipodes,24(1), 2010. Web. 19 Nov. 2010.




Houston, Chloe. "Utopia, Dystopia or Anti-Utopia? Gulliver's Travels and the Utopian

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Swift, Jonathan. & Rivero, Albert J. Gulliver's Travels (Norton Critical Editions). W.W.

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