Satire in Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift | Free Essay Example

Satire in Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Words: 573
Topic: Literature


Gulliver’s Travels tells the story of Lemuel Gulliver. He tours different parts of the world after the failure of his business. He first goes to Lilliput, where he meets tiny people before he goes back to his home through Blefuscu. He stays with his family for some time and then goes on another travel.

He visits Brogdingnag, the land of giants. Everything in this land is disgusting, and he eventually leaves for Laputa, the land of academicians. In many of the places he visits, he encounters war between natives and their neighbors or war against him. People fight because of petty reasons such as how to crack an egg (LaMarre, Kristen and Beam 13).

The story portrays the absurdity of human life through other occurrences such as women sleeping naked and asking Gulliver to play with their bodies. This story effectively satirizes the absurdity of war, religion, sex, knowledge, power and many other occurrences in the world through the experiences that Gulliver goes through.


Jonathan Swift believes that many of the leaders in the world have no qualifications for leadership. He considers them ignorant of the occurrences in the world. Most of them use their physical might to ascend to power and protect their positions. This satire is evident in Brogdingnag, where the giants do not know anything about politics.

Everything in their land bullies Gulliver. For example, women bully him by asking him to play with their bodies. Insects bully him by dirtying his food. Their huge bodies disgust him. These occurrences satirize people who use their physical capabilities instead of mental abilities (Lemke 15).

Swift also criticizes fights between neighboring countries. For example, the Lilliputians hate the Blefuscu because they believe they do not know how to crack eggs. Many countries in the world differ and even fight due to such petty reasons. Some of the countries or groups of people fight due to religious reasons, while other countries fight because of problems they can solve through dialogue.

Swift also satirizes the human nature. He compares human beings to giants and other animals that are self-centered. Some animals such as the horses in the story even behave better than human beings do. The use of animals brings out the greed and the self-centeredness of human beings. The giants in the story represent people who are greedy for political power even when they do not have enough education. Such leaders are always protective of their positions, just as the giants do (Lemke 20).

He also satirizes both practical and theoretical education. The Laputans represent practical education. They are very contemptuous of people who do not believe in theoretical education. However, their education does not produce anything. Similarly, the sunbeam extraction experiment at the Balnibarbi Academy fails.

Swift juxtaposes these two groups of educated people to the people of Brobdingnagian and Houynhnhnmland, who do not have as much education, yet they are prosperous. There is good governance and prosperity in Brobdingnagian yet the citizens, including the king, do not have enough formal education. On the other hand, the people of Houynhnhnmland know how to tell the length of a month by looking at the shape of the moon (Lemke 23).


In conclusion, Swift satirizes human behavior using absurd occurrences and weird characters. He criticizes greed, the education system, sex, war and politics. Gulliver moves from place to place to show how different people struggle when trying to handle these issues.

Works Cited

LaMarre, Heather L, Kristen, Landreville, and Michael A Beam. “The Irony of Satire, Political Ideology and the Motivation to See What You Want to See in the Colbert Report.” The International Journal of Press/Politics 14.2 (2009): 212-231. Print.

Lemke, Donald. Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. 1st Ed. Minneapolis: Stone Arch Books, 2008. Print.