Gulliver's Travels

Discuss Gulliver's idealization of his country. What political allusions are in evidence?

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When Gulliver puts out the palace's fire by urinating on it, Swift is doing more than making a joke that one should pee on the problems of the state. A fire is a serious thing. One serious implication is that royalty is ephemeral. The royal palace can catch on fire just like anything else, and when it does, no amount of royal power can put it out, just physics-and the dirty side of nature at that. Gulliver proves the point when everyone under the emperor's power is trying to put out the fire with their tiny buckets, and he realizes the only way to put it out is by urinating. Swift is also showing the reader something about the ridiculous needs of royalty, because even though Gulliver has saved the palace he has done so in a blameworthy manner.

Most of the time in Gulliver's Travels when Gulliver tells the details of a society's ways of living, Swift is satirizing something wrong with English society. This can occur when he describes the society negatively, but it also can occur by demonstrating a difference between the other culture and his own. It is apparent that many of the Lilliputian customs are attractive to Swift. For instance, in Lilliput, lying is a capital offence. We see this again when we meet the Houyhnhnms, the noblest race on Gulliver's journey, who do not understand the concept of saying that which is not true. Swift suggests that lying is worse than several of the blameworthy offences in England.

It is interesting to note that even though lying is seen as a terrible offense in Lilliput, Flimnap tells a huge lie (that Gulliver slept with Flimnap's wife) and gets away with it. Apart from the ludicrous physical implications of a giant having relations with a Lilliputian, the problem here is that the society must be able to enforce its norm against lying for the law to matter. This may also be a commentary on the seeming ability of those in positions of power to get away with breaking the law. When the law comes down unfairly on Gulliver, he has actual rather than statutory power to leave, so he simply leaves Lilliput to live with their enemies.