Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels and the Refinement of Language and Society

Of all the institutions satirized in Jonathon Swift's "Gulliver's Travels," one that has perhaps been less scrutinized is the destruction of the English language. Throughout the travels, language is the key obstacle in Gulliver's "understanding" of various cultures. Only in book four, however, is the role of language central to Swift's satiric meaning. His condemnation of English Society, is more explicitly an indictment of those that intend to corrupt the English language by promoting lies, change and euphemisms.

According to Swift, the English language is extremely flawed. His reasoning has to do with change, noting that those who attempt to polish and refine it are hastening its corruption. Swift fears that as the language continues to drift from the English of the past, "its lessons, its wisdom, are hidden behind the opaque surface of a language that simultaneously is and is not ours" (Montag 114). As the language of the future is altered, the past will soon become unintelligible. The result is a society with an uncertain history, destined for political decline. Rather than merely point out the flaws of the English language and its handling, Swift offers a solution. He suggests...

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