Gulliver’s Travels Part 3 Critical Analysis :- The book called Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift is a satire on four aspects of man: the physical, the political, the intellectual, and the moral. The book is also a brilliant parody of travel literature; and it is at once science fiction and a witty parody of science fiction .It is a great comic masterpiece, a fact which readers of solemn temperaments often fail to recognize. Gulliver’s third voyage is more scattered than the others, involving stops at Laputa, Balnibarbi, Glubbdubdrib, Luggnagg, and Japan. Swift completed the account of this voyage after that of the fourth voyage was already written, and there are hints that it was assembled from notes that Swift had made for an earlier satire of abstract knowledge. Nonetheless, it plays a crucial role in the novel as a whole. Whereas the first two voyages are mostly satires of politics and ethics, the third voyage extends Swift’s attack to science, learning, and abstract thought, offering a critique of excessive rationalism, or reliance on theory, during the Enlightenment.
The insecurity and uncertainty of direction we feel at the end of the “Voyage to Brobdingnag” is heightened in Part III. The success of this book is not at all easy for a modern reader to gauge. Its sharp contrast in method, with the grotesque figures of the Laputans and the excursions into magic and immortality, certainly breaks the atmosphere of moral realism which pervades the voyages to Lilliput, Brobdingnag, and Houyhnhnm-land; even the rational horses belong to a world of morality, not of fantasy. If we see the “Voyage to Laputa” in terms of modern vice and traditional virtue, we find it less striking than the other voyages, where moral problems are more overtly considered though their presentation is influenced by contemporary thinking.
For the visit to Laputa itself, and to the subject land of Balnibarbi, has a more serious intention than the topical one of ridiculing the Royal Society. The flying island, “the King’s Demesn”, in its devious and sensitive oblique movements, suggests the relationship of king and country. Laputa is ultimately dependent upon Balnibarbi, its motions only allowed by the magnetic quality of the “King’s Dominions.” As for the nobles and ministers, they are in part committed to the welfare of both lands, for while they attend at the Laputan court their estates lie on the continent below, so that they will never dare advise the King to make himself “the most absolute prince in the Universe” by so ruthless and desperate a course. The balance of power, and the delicate relationships which subsist between a monarch and those whom he governs, could scarcely be better represented than by conditions in Laputa and Balnibarbi, and it is typical of Swift that these relationships, though given a colour of respect for human life and liberties, are seen to be really dependent upon the exact adjustment of practical necessities; the self-love of each party is carried as far as it can go without that open conflict with the self-love of others which would bring it to destruction.
The Laputans, though they are in human shape, are more obviously allegorical creatures than any in Gulliver’s Travels. Their physical characteristics express their nature as do those of the Brobdingnagians or the Yahoos, but in a different way. The Laputans have indeed lost their human quality in their abnormal absorption in things remote from the concerns of men. They make little physical effect upon us, for their outer aspect is as unnatural, as purely emblematic, as that of a personification like Spenser’s Occasion: “One of their Eyes turned inward, and the other directly up to the Zenith” because they are completely absorbed in their own speculations and in the study of the stars. Their interests are entirely abstract, and they see nothing of the everyday practical world, ignoring the knowledge of the senses . The Laputan is “always so wrapped up in Cogitation, that he is in manifest Danger of falling down every Precipice, and bouncing his Head against every post; and in the Streets, of jostling others, or being jostled himself into the Kennel.” Because they scorn the evidence of the senses, the Laputans are necessarily “very bad Reasoners,” though very positive and dogmatic ones, for the senses are “so many Avenues to the Fort of Reason,” which in them as in the mechanical operators of the spirit is wholly blocked up. These strange figures are akin not only to the mechanical operators but more closely to the spider-like world-makers. Laputan thinking produces results as flimsy and useless as a cobweb–Gulliver’s ill-fitting suit, the devastated countryside of Balnibarbi.
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The King and his court are devoted entirely to two subjects, music and mathematics, the most abstract of sciences. There is a topical reference, in that an interest in these “two eternal and immutable verities” and in the analogies between them serves to identify the Laputans as members of the Royal Society, but for centuries an interest in the relationship of mathematics and music had In the existed, so that it was by no means an exclusively contemporary concern. Swift’s reference to the music of the spheres emphasizes this more general meaning; the Laputans spend hours at their instruments, preparing themselves to join in the music of the spheres, which they claim to be able to hear. Since mankind is traditionally deaf to this music because of the grossness of the senses through sin, the claim implies that the Laputans believe themselves to have escaped from such tyranny. To their impracticality is added the presumption of ignoring the inherited wisdom which sees man as a fallen creature separated, through his own fault, from the order, truth, and justice figured in the celestial harmony of the nine enfolded spheres.
The narrowness, even to inhumanity, of the Laputans is indeed stressed throughout. They have cut themselves off completely from all that is humanly creative and constructive. Even their food approaches as nearly as possible to the rarefied atmosphere in which they live, for their meat is carved into geometrical shapes and their poultry trussed up “into the Form of Fiddles.” Nor have they any conception of physical or sensuous beauty, since they see beauty only in mathematical abstractions, and judge not by sense impressions but by an arbitrary relation of animal forms to abstract shapes existing in their minds. The King has no interest in “the Laws, Government, History, Religion, or Manners of the Countries” Gulliver has visited and his realm of Balnibarbi is chaotic. Gulliver “could not discover one Ear of Corn, or Blade of Grass” except in a few places, during his journeys, and our minds revert to the kingdom of Brobdingnag, the land which has been called a “simple Utopia of abundance,” where government is conducted with practical good will and a due regard for traditional wisdom, and where the King regards his task as one of promoting increase and life, making “two Ears of Com, or two Blades of Grass, to grow where only one grew before.”
Laputa, on the other hand, is world of death and the results of their efforts are purely destructive because their aims are impossibly high and are unrelated to real conditions. In the meantime, houses are ruined, land uncultivated, and people starving, and the only result of Laputan enterprise on the prosperous estate of the old-fashioned Lord Munodi has been to destroy the will which had long provided his family and tenants, in order to make way for one which should, on scientific principles, be better, but which somehow fails to work.
The activities of the members of the Academy of Projectors, though they involve experiment, are yet related to the abstract thinking of the King. By blending experiment and Hing Priori reasoning in the Academy at lagado, Swift is able to show scientific “projects” as yet another example of that whole development of thinking which leads away from the ways of a Christian and humanist tradition. Indeed one of the projects is an exact allegorical equivalent of the process of reasoning downward to, instead of upward from, the foundations of plain experience: “There was a most ingenious Architect who had contrived a new Method for building Houses, by beginning at the Roof, and working downwards to the Foundation; which he justified to me by the like Practice of those two prudent Insects the Bee and the Spider”.
The experiments and their results allow Swift to collect together various images which, as so often, express his meaning through producing a certain atmosphere which must affect our response to Laputa and Balnibarbi. These projects leave in impression of uselessness, dirt, ephemerality, or death; the Academicians present for our inspection a spider web, a hog rooting up acorns, a muddle of painters’ colors, a dead dog. Their efforts are summed up in an illustrious member who has been given the title of “the Universal Artist”, and who has been for thirty years directing his followers in various ways of converting things into their opposites, thus turning the useful into the unusable and the vital into the atrophied.” Air is made tangible and marble soft, land is sown with chaff and naked sheep are bred; and perhaps most exact of all as an epitome of the achievements of the Academy, the hooves of a living horse are being petrified.The mechanism of the Tale exists in Lagado too, in the machine which is to replace the thinking and creating mind of man and will, by pure chance, eventually produce “Books in Philosophy, Poetry, Politicks, Law, Mathematicks and Theology”.
While the prevailing effect of the images we associate with Lilliput and especially, Brobdingnag is of man and other animals as vigorous physical presences, the effect of Laputa and its subject kingdom is of a wilful abandoning of the physical and of the vital for the abstract, the mechanical, and the unproductive. The prevailing images here are not of real people and animals, even: “little odious vermin,” but of ruins, mechanical constructions, men who look like allegorical figures and women who are thought of as rhomboids or parallelograms. Animals are only negatively present, as in the pathetic horses and sheep of the Academy. Even Laputa itself is a mechanical device, and the flying island expresses not only the Laputans’ desertion of the common earth of reality but their conversion of the universe to a mechanism and of living to a mechanical process.
From Lagado Gulliver makes his way to Glubbdubdrib, where again he is in a world of no-meaning, of delusion and death, darker and more shadowy than Laputa. In the palace of the sorcerer who is governor of the island Gulliver has a series of singularly uninformative interviews with the ghosts of the famous dead, and Alexander and Hannibal, who as conquerors and destroyers had little to recommend them to Swift, make particularly trivial replies. We are given a gloomy enough picture of both the ancient and the modern world.
Gulliver, hearing of these immortals, Struldbrugs, cries out “as in a Rapture,” exclaiming upon the wisdom and happiness which they must have achieved. They must, he says, “being born exempt from that universal Calamity of human nature, have their Minds free and disingaged, without the Weight and Depression of Spirits caused by the continual Apprehension of Death,” and he is only too willing to tell his hearers how he would plan his life, if he were a Struldbrug, to bring the greatest possible benefit to himself and his country. In fact, of course, the immortal and aged creatures, though free from the fear of death, are yet as full of fears and wretchedness as any other men: being what we are, we will always find occasion to display those vices which as human beings we will always have, however long we may live Gulliver says that he grew “heartily ashamed of the pleasing Visions I had formed; and thought no Tyrant could invent a Death into which I would not run with pleasure from such a Life,” and that he would have been willing, if it had not been forbidden by the laws of Luggnagg, to send a couple of Struldbrugs to England to arm the people against that fear of death which is natural to mankind.
Swift continues to satirize specialized language in his description of the technique used to move the island from one place to another. The method of assigning letters to parts of a mechanism and then describing the movement of these parts from one point to another resembles the mechanistic philosophical and scientific descriptions of Swift’s time. So the “Voyage to Laputa” which opens among a people essentially frivolous in its refusal to face the facts of human existence, ends face to face with inescapable reality. The voyage to illusion, the escape from facts, ends in a darker reality than any Gulliver has yet encountered. Gulliver himself, in this book, becomes a part of the world of illusion and distorted values. Already in the earlier voyages the shifting, inconsistent quality which Gulliver shares with all Swift’s satiric mouthpieces has been made to contribute to effects of relativity, and to suggest the hold of physical circumstances over mankind. In the “Voyage to Laputa,” any still surviving notion that Gulliver is a safe guide through these strange countries is ended. He ceases to have any character and in effect, vanishes, so that for the most part the satire speaks directly to us; the “mouthpiece” performs no real function.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Who is the author of Gulliver’s Travels?
Jonathan Swift wrote the Novel “Gulliver’s Travels”.
How many Stories are in Gulliver’s Travels?
Gulliver’s Travels consists of Four Parts, (i) “A Voyage to Lilliput”, (ii) “A Voyage to Brobdingnag”, (iii) “A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib and Japan”, (iv) “A Voyage to the Land of the Houyhnhnms”.
Who is the Protagonist of “Gulliver’s Travels”?
Gulliver (Lemuel Gulliver) is the protagonist of the novel “Gulliver’s Travels”.