What is man in nature? A nothing in comparison
with the infinite, an All in comparison with the Nothing,
a mean between nothing and everything. - Pascal1
This is the basis for one of the greatest works of satire ever written, Gulliver's Travels, by Jonathan Swift. Known as one of the best children's fantasy stories, Gulliver's Travels is actually a satire on four aspects of man: physical, political, intellectual, and moral. This book expresses savage indignation at the follies, vices, and stupidities of men.
Swift's allegory on politics, expressed predominantly in Books I and III, is the basis for this paper. Through this paper, I will show the genius of Jonathan Swift in satirizing the political conditions of his day through the experiences of Lemuel Gulliver. I will focus only on Books I and III, for these two books are almost all political allegory and satire.
Book I, where Gulliver visits the land of the Lilliputians, can be paralleled with the political fortunes of the two Tory leaders, Oxford and Bolingbroke (Robert Harley and Henry St. John), during the latter half of Queen Anne's reign. To begin with, Gulliver is shipwrecked and captured by the Lilliputians. This corresponds to the temporary fall of Oxford and Bolingbroke in 1708 when the Whigs, led by Godolphin and the Earl of Marlborough, secured control of the Cabinet and the House of Commons.2
As the book progresses, Gulliver is pictured as having been caught off-guard. He contemplates using violence to free himself, which he could easily have done, but chose to submit to the Lilliputians. Later he regards his submission as a promise binding him in honor not to injure his captors. This attitude parallels that of the Tories towards the Whigs from 1708 to 1710.3
In the second chapter, Swift uses Lilliput's Emperor and Empress for his satire. Allegorically, Swift is telling about the ruling of England from Queen Anne to George I. However, instead o...