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Individual and Society in Swift's Gulliver's Travels - Book Report/Review Example

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The author of the paper states that Gulliver’s Travels appears to be a work intended to incorporate both the socio-political and legal conditions of England and Ireland, along with the distorted view of an idealistic society as presented in Swift’s satirical work A Modest Proposal…
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Individual and Society in Swifts Gullivers Travels
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Download file to see previous pages Through his technical device of the “voyage”, Swift not only scrutinizes the idea of ‘Utopia’ but also characterizes his narrative in such a manner that eloquently highlights the weak link between the individual and society. Through the characterization of Gulliver, an embittered and antisocial misanthrope, Swift develops an important theme of the individual and society- a society where the excess of communal life results in the isolation of an individual. Voyage is an inseparable part of Gulliver’s definition of an ideal society. According to Garcia, it is the element of a voyage that made it possible for Gulliver, as well as for Swift, to escape from his own society and search for a different and better place that bears no resemblance at all to his society of departure (1). This element of the voyage, as a catalyst, provided Swift with an ideal perspective of four different societies that reflected the conditions of his own times. Through Lilliputians, he pondered upon the excessive pride of humankind and the inability of Gulliver to diagnose that misplaced human pride. The Brobdingnagians and the Laputans symbolized the inner struggle of an individual to incorporate the theoretical knowledge in accordance with the reality of human existence. However, the theme of the individual and society appears more appropriate in relation to Houyhnhnms and Gulliver. Houyhnhnms, represent an ideal of rational existence. In this perfect rational world, the superiority of rational horses over the degenerated Yahoos provides the Utopian ideal of a perfect life rooted totally into senses. Here it is important to ask whether in giving the description of a perfect ‘rational’ Utopian world, Swift intends to represent his own ideal? To probe into this question, the relationship between Gulliver and the Houyhnhnms’ society, needs to be analyzed. Gulliver, throughout his voyage, finds himself connected only with the Utopian society represented by Houyhnhnms. Swift brilliantly uses the characters of rational horses to highlight the modern situation of an individual that cannot belong to the community of his choice; thus resulting in alienation. This feeling of alienation is important for Gulliver’s Travels, not only to maintain a satirical tone but also to probe into the question of individual identity. Gulliver’s grief, his loneliness enforces the concept of an individual identity that cannot be realized with the communal identity. For swift, the union with the community leads to a loss of human identity. Houyhnhnms rule that Gulliver’s semblance of reason can be a danger to their perfect system; as a result, they expel him from their community. In accordance to this event, Swift carefully weaves Gulliver’s rescue by a Yahoo- a generous, wise and courteous person- in order to provide a glimpse of what our society can hope for; that is a balance of reason and emotions. However, Gulliver is unable to reconcile with his situation and ends up being alone, only talking with his horses at home in England. Here, it is important to note how well Swift has developed Gulliver’s mental and emotional state. By making Gulliver irrationally talk with his horses, Swift attacks the status of a man as a rational animal. He deliberately allows Gulliver to talk with the horses, represented as rational beings, at his homeland i.e. England, a center of the irrational socio-political and legal system.  ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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