Gulliver's Travels

Sexual Frustration, Sublimation, and Aggression in Brobdingnag

In the voyage to Brobdingnag section of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, the title character fits a common psychological profile over 150 years before the theory describing it was technically defined. The story manifestly presupposes the Freudian concept of sublimation of repressed sexual frustration into behavior redirected toward another goal with the intent to prove the initial sexual merit through other means. Norman O. Brown recognizes Swift's foresight, explicitly stating that "Swift did anticipate the doctrine of sublimation" (44). Brown expresses wonder at how Swift was able to anticipate the doctrine (44). Swift's intention is not critical to this interpretation of the story, but the idea that Swift was not familiar with the concept of sublimation as it existed during his time would be a real surprise. Gulliver's voyage to Brobdingnag is a thematically coherent pre-Freudian exploration of Gulliver's sublimating his sexual frustration and humiliation into his vision of the higher goal of proving to the King his own unquestioned masculine worth, climaxing in his aggressive, sexually charged revelation of the secrets of the invention and uses of gunpowder.

Etymological evidence...

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