Lilliputians and Brobdingnagians in Swift's Satire: Parallels and Contrasts with Aristocratic England

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Gulliver’s Travels is a famous satire novel that was written in the 18th century by Johnathan Swift. Swift uses Gulliver to play a role that helps us understand the differences and similarities between the Lilliputians and the Brobdingnagians and their emperor and king respectively. This undermines the subculture of aristocratic England. The Lilliputians are very aggressive and violent little miniature beings. In the novel when they find Gulliver they automatically assume that he’s a threat to them so they tie him up and shoot him with little tiny arrows. They also have many civil wars amongst themselves over the most ridiculous things such as which end you should crack an egg on. These civil wars have resulted in the deaths of many Lilliputians.

The Brobdingnagians are almost the complete opposite of the Lilliputians. They are very kind huge giant people who seek peace. In fact, when the king of the Brobdingnagians hears that gunpowder and other things have been invented to aid in the slaughtering of men he is shocked by the savagery of the countrymen. The Brobdingnagians also have very few laws but the laws they do have are relatively simple and east to follow. In Lilliput, Gulliver begins as a prisoner because he agrees to be confined but he could very easily break loose if he wanted to. Once the emperor of Lilliput realizes how good of a weapon Gulliver would be against Blefuscu he releases Gulliver. He is exploited by the emperor to wipe out the Blefuscudian people but he refuses to do so. In turn, the emperor turns on him and accuses him of treason because he didn’t want to help fight with them. Gulliver then seeks refugee with the Blefuscu people and they actually help Gulliver because of the fact that he didn’t want to hurt them.

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In Brobdingnag, Gulliver is still exploited but as an entertainer this time. The first man he lives with makes money by forcing Gulliver to put on a show for the people that come to see him. What this man does to Gulliver is seen as an anomaly to the Brobdingnagians because they were trying to protect Gulliver. Noticing this, the king buys Gulliver from the man that found and exploited him and treats Gulliver like he should be treated. The differences between the Lilliputians and the Brobdingnagians is mostly based on their conditions and formation of living. Gulliver was a “man mountain” in Lilliput but becomes a dwarf in Brobdingnag. The emperor of Lilliput and the king of Brobdingnag are not comparable in size so the difference in their mental attitudes is understandable.

The emperor of Lilliput is ridiculous. In order to hold a position in the court you need to be a skilled rope dancer and learn to jump the highest without falling. Appointing the court this way doesn’t assure that the most qualified or skilled person gets the job but the person that is the best at some arbitrary task. Furthermore, the emperor is extremely warlike. Gulliver declares that the Lilliputian army possesses “the best military discipline I ever beheld” (Swift, p. 41). The king of Brobdingnag on the other hand is much more peaceful and caring. Gulliver expects the people to be violent because they are so massive but they are the complete opposite. The king is amazed at Gulliver’s stories of England. In the end he tells Gulliver, “I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth” (Swift, p. 164-165). Swift uses these two rulers in Gulliver’s Travels to show how much he hated the vices that politicians had of England during the 18th century.

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Lilliputians and Brobdingnagians in Swift’s Satire: Parallels and Contrasts with Aristocratic England. (2023, February 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 25, 2024, from
“Lilliputians and Brobdingnagians in Swift’s Satire: Parallels and Contrasts with Aristocratic England.” Edubirdie, 01 Feb. 2023,
Lilliputians and Brobdingnagians in Swift’s Satire: Parallels and Contrasts with Aristocratic England. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Jul. 2024].
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