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Gulliver's Travels: A Voyage to Lilliput
Background Information
Summary of A Voyage to Lilliput | Background Information | Tourist Attractions


Swift's Use of Satire

In part I of Gulliver's Travels, A Voyage to Lilliput, Jonathan Swift uses satire to represent events that took place in England during the reigns of Queen Anne and George I. Throughout his voyage, Gulliver meets many different people all of which represent influential people in British society. Swift uses satire to point out the problems with the British government. He also points out problems between the Whigs and the Tories, and the Protestants and the Catholics.
Some of the characters that Gulliver meets in the land of Lilliput are the Emperor, and members of his court such as Flimnap and Reldresal. The Emperor represents King George I of England. At the time George I became king he was not very popular. He did not speak any English and depended on the people and politicians around him to make his decisions. The Lilliputians call him Golbastro Molmaren Evlame Gurdilo Shefin Mully Ully Gue. This is a direct satire of how the royalty of the time had extremely long names that they thought distinguished themselves. Flimnap is said to symbolize the leader of the Whigs, Sir Walter Walpole. Reldresal could possibly be the Duke of Marlborough who was also a Whig. At the time Swift wrote this, he was a spokesperson for the Whigs Party.
Throughout the third and fourth chapters, Swift is satirical in the way that he portrays the Lilliputian government. In Gulliver's Travels, Lilliput represents England.  Gulliver describes the way that government officials are selected and how they are ranked in society. In chapter III, Gulliver describes how citizens obtain high placing jobs in the government. To get the job, one must jump over a stick that either the king or the minister is holding. Whichever candidate jumps the highest without falling is then given the job. Another way that people become government officials is by competing with other candidates for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd positions in front of the Emperor, Empress, and minister. Depending on how long the candidates last, they receive the blue ribbon (1st place), the red ribbon (2nd place), or the green ribbon (3rd place). To the Lilliputians, this method of governmental placement seems relevant, but it is used as satire and Gulliver sees this as a completely pointless and irrelevant way to chose officials.  Swift is using satire here to let people know that British officials were somewhat in a way being picked at random.
In chapter IV, Gulliver is asked to help protect the Lilliputian empire from the two major things that are threatening it, the Tramecksan and Slamecksan groups and the foreign country of Blefuscu. Tramecksan (High-Heels) and Slamecksan (Low-Heels) symbolize the Tory and Whig parties of the British government. In Lilliput, the majority group is the High-Heels. The Low-Heels, even though they are less in numbers have more political power because they are favored by the Emperor. The Emperor makes it known that he is a Low-Heel by only allowing Slamecksan members to hold government positions. This part of the story satires how the Tory party used to be in control during the reign of Queen Anne. Swift was once a member of the Tories but joined the Whigs once George I became king and shifted the power over to the Whigs, the smaller majority.
Gulliver is then asked to help the Lilliputians by defeating their enemies in Blefuscu, which represents France. The Lilliputians are facing an attack from Blefuscu because of an argument over an egg. Years before, the current emperor's grandfather had made it law that everyone must brake their eggs small side first. He came to this decision after cutting his finger while breaking his egg large side first. Gulliver eventually goes over to the island of Blefuscu, captures their soldiers, and brings back many Blefuscan ships to the ports of Lilliput. This war between Lilliput and Blefuscu satires the many wars that England had become involved in for meaningless reasons. When Gulliver tells this story, which he tells with complete seriousness, it is supposed to be funny to the reader. This was obviously meant to portray England's history and gives us an insight into how Swift felt about his government.
Between Lilliput and Blefuscu, the two major competing parties are the Big-Endians and the Little-Endians. The controversy over which side of the egg to break, caused huge problems in Lilliput. It caused many Big-Endians to move to Blefuscu where their beliefs were accepted. In Lilliput the Emperor ruled that the Big-Endian scriptures were not to be read or followed. The Big-Endians and Little-Endians resemble the Catholics and Protestants. There was a big controversy between the two religious groups, and many rulers tried to limit what one could believe. By using satire when talking about the egg and the Catholics and Protestants, Swift got the point across that the Bible can be interpreted in many different ways and that no one should or can tell anyone what they can and can not believe.
By the end of the first voyage, Swift starts to seriously talk about the problems facing the British government. All throughout the first part, he had been using satire to resemble the Lilliputian and English governments. In the last couple chapters, he starts to point out the Lilliputian customs that are reasonable and that would do the whole nation good. In these last chapters, he puts the satire aside and starts to focus on the more important issues and resolutions to them.

Written By:  Erica Nunez, J.R. Bell