Size and Attitude Between People in "Gulliver's Travels"

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Size and Attitude Between People


0/04/0 Sergei Djuvinov 11/1


Jonathan Swift’s novel Gulliver’s Travels is a perfect example of the Enlightenment period writing. In his work Swift focuses on the individual and his place in society. Although the majority of readers believe that the novel compares the attitude toward people according to their size, the literary work actually implies the opposite. The author suggests that people judge a person based on his personality and the power they posses over him, not based on his size or outer appearance. Swift tells the reader that size should not form people’s opinion about a man. The writer achieves this impression through the careful use of satire and humor.


The reader best sees the comparison between sizes in the first two parts of the novel- Gulliver’s travels to Lilliput and Brobdingnag. In his first adventure Gulliver is a giant, compared to the natives, who are only few inches tall. Readers who think that in this land the main character is superior to the natives are basically correct. It is natural that the natives are afraid of the giant at first because, compared with them, he is a “mountain man”. Every normal person fears creatures that are much larger than himself. Therefore, the Lilliputians’ behavior is natural and understandable. Although Gulliver is taken prisoner, this is not an act of disrespect or an attempt to show the natives’ power and strength. This is only a precaution, a normal and civilized way for protection. At first the little people fasten Gulliver to the ground because they don’t know him and whether he is an enemy or friend. Still, in this action the little people show their respect hospitality. As the main character admits about his imprisonment and treatment


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“This resolution perhaps may appear very bold and dangerous, and I am confident would not be imitated by any prince in Europe…, in my opinion, it was extremely prudent as well as generous.”


This obviously is an expression of the Lilliputian’s new feelings towards the giant. They have already gone through their fear and admit Gulliver as a member of their society. Because Gulliver has not threatened the native people, in an act of hospitality they share their meals with him, conduct prolonged conversations, entertain each other, and even give the “mountain man” his freedom. Afraid in the beginning, the Lilliputians overcome their fear by the end of Part one. The reason for such transformation is the sailor’s actions and deeds. Although huge and mighty, he doesn’t hurt any one, and even helps the Lilliputians in their war against the neighboring kingdom. Therefore, we can say that even though the little people have made their first opinion about the main character based on his outlook, later they have formed their opinion him according to his deeds.


In order to strengthen the idea that people should be judged by their actions, Swift presents to the reader Gulliver’s second adventure- the travel to Brobdingnag. This voyage reveals another situation, which seems totally different from the first adventure. In Brobdingnag the roles are switched. Now the main character is diminished as he is hundreds of times smaller than the local people. In the beginning the Englishman is regarded as worthless. As in the first travel, Gulliver is taken prisoner and used by the locals.


“I walked about on the table as the girl commanded me…”


The position of the sailor in society is so low, that even children command him. In the beginning no one respects the explorer. He is used only for making money and satisfying the curiosity of the locals. However, this attitude is normal and understandable. For the giants Gulliver is only a worthless creature that looks more like an insect or a machine than like a human being. The reason for such behavior is that at first the natives form their opinion about the character only by their observation of his size and outlook. However, their feelings change as soon the “masters” start judging about the prisoner based on what he does. The locals are astonished by the swiftness Gulliver learns their language and his intelligence. Thanks to his natural abilities the sailor wins the love not only of the common people, but also of the king. The ruler treats the hero as an equal and respects his opinion.


“The king heard me with attention; and began to conceive a much better opinion of me, than he had ever before. “


Things would be very different if Gulliver didn’t show his abilities, or the king didn’t observe the character’s deeds. If the hero remained passive or the king judged only by the outlook, Gulliver would never become so close to the king and the queen. He would have remained a toy for the peasants, a disrespected and detestable creature.


One can learn many lessons reading Jonathan Swift’s novel Gulliver’s Travels. Following the conventions of the Enlightenment period the author teaches that man is not only what he looks, but also what his personality is. A person is judged according to his achievements achievements. This judgment is made not only on size, but also based on his deeds, actions, and his attitude towards his faith. According to this a person takes different places in society.





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