Books

Gulliver’s Travel’s, A Satire: (1) We Are Full of Ourselves

Gulliver's TravelsMuch like Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, I’m going to make a series of posts with 4 parts (with a 5th one for a final commentary).

And where else to start than with the Lilliputians?

This is the most well known section of Gulliver’s Travels, where Gulliver is on an island inhabited by human beings who are 12 times smaller than normal.

If there’s anything to be said about these little guys, it is that they are tiny balls of pride. They are really high and mighty for people who are only six inches tall, and their language is really eloquent.

I love the catalogue of the items they find in Gulliver’s pockets. My favourite is the description of Gulliver’s pocket watch:

Which appeared to be a Globe, half Silver, and half of some transparent Metal: for on the transparent Side we saw a certain strange Figures circularly drawn, and thought we could touch them, until we found our Fingers stopped with that lucid Substance. He put this Engine to our Ears, which made an incessant noise like that of a Water-Mill. And we conjecture it is either some unknown Animal, or the God that he worships: But we are more inclined to the latter Opinion, because he assured us (if we understood him right, for he expressed himself very imperfectly) that he seldom did any Thing without consulting it.

Reading this made me smile. Their particular description of the watch reveals so much about them: they way they think and speak, their natural inquisitiveness. I was actually surprised by the quality of life that these little dudes live. It’s very fancy–they even ban (to be euphemistic) “relieving oneself” in the empress’s apartments. (To which I ask, where does SHE do her business?)

Actually, while their high and mightiness is in some cases adorable, it’s also kind of ridiculous, and other times insane. They ask Gulliver to stand like a Colossus while they parade under him. They are at war with Belfuscu because they crack their eggs from the “wrong side.”

Which leads to part one of Gulliver’s Travels, A Satire: (1) We are Full of Ourselves

The Lillputians represent pride, to the point of ridicule. It’s the cocky side of human nature where we are always right and everyone else is always wrong. It’s the sense that, even though we all take dumps, we don’t like people knowing we take dumps. That we are above basal urges even though they are a necessity.

And it’s the side of us that says “You must crack your eggs on the small end!”

“It is computed, that eleven Thousand Persons have, at several Times, suffered Death, rather than submit to break their Eggs at the smaller End.” -Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels (43)

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