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“Science and Reason” in Gulliver’s Travels: Analytical Essay

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“My horses understand me tolerably well; I converse with them at least four hours every day. They are strangers to bridle or saddle; they live in great amity with me, and friendship of each other.”[footnoteRef:1] [1: Quote by Jonathan Swift (1826). “Gulliver’s Travels”]

Starting from this quote of Jonathan Swift, who is presenting us that there are different kinds of societies and ways of leading a country in the world, and all function good if they have communication, friendship and good will in them. We have to go deep on the way that he is reasoning and understand the real meaning of reasoning that leads to development of science in different kinds of society in the years 1700’.

Starting with, Gulliver’s Travels represents the story of Lemuel Gulliver, who is an Englishman who takes journeys to the seas, in search of what is interesting and different from the culture of his own. And he narrates the adventures that he makes on these travels. Taking in consideration the development of science and reason in the years 1700,I can say that the places and creatures which lived in the places that he visited were enough developed and ahead of time. Also as a man of science that he was Gulliver was focused and interested only in the development of sciences of: Mathematics, Biology, Physics, Geography, Literature, Philosophy, Architecture and also culture in different parts of the world, and comparing them with his own development back in England. Jonathan Swift has an amazing way of writing and expressing his ideas in connection with reason and science ,he can intertwine both of them so beautifully and leaving behind a delightful result.

With Gulliver, Jonathan wanted to create the character who had the desire to see and observe other cultures, to analyze the traditions, the sciences which were developed in other places rather than his own. The science and reason takes different forms and different meanings in different countries and places, that he visits. With this book Jonathan Swift wanted to “slaughter” or mock: the politics of England and creating also a satire on human nature. And not only slaughter the politics, but also the education system and the corruption in the kingdom of England.

By “slaughtering” I mean the way that he described the reality of England so naturally and realistic, and not only that but also critisizing behind the veil of being an author. The satire keeps expanding from one voyage to the other and keeps getting sour. And the author not only marks the political activity, but also the civil and intellectual life. In this narration we feel the deep hate that Swift had for the society of England at that time, which was drowned in judgement, prejudice and bad qualities. In this way of reasoning by using satire he wants to give his fellow English people and political activity of that time the ideal meaning of the society, of the way how people should consider the life, the way that they are thinking or the reasoning and also the life connected to the science.

In the end after everything that Lemuel Gulliver had been through and seen around all of his journeys after all the things that he had experienced around the world, which affected and influenced on him in different ways, making him reason and mentality change. When he gets back home it is impossible for him to enjoy his family and the society in which he was born. He got so used to living in the other societies and their mentalities so he forgot what it’s like to be back home, back to his roots and to his family. His way of viewing the life changed forever since that moment.

In the part 1:A Voyage to Lilliput (4 May 1699-13 April 1702) we have Lemuel Gulliver, pushed by his desire to travel and visit every place around the world, Gulliver decides to take a journey to the sea, but unfortunately he goes through a shipwreck and he is the only one who survives and ends up in the shore of an island of Lilliput . Lilliput were really small people in their size and they amazed Lemuel, he also did not expect that these people would have a culture, a kingdom and a society of their own . He then goes on describing the reasoning and science that these people had. He was shocked when he saw that these Lilliputians were able to do these things just the same as human beings, well all in all only the size was the thing that made them different from the people that Lemuel came from, but these Lilliputians also had their own strange way of behavior for Lemuel such as the way of writing.

To give an illustration of what they did was “they bury their dead with their heads directly downward, because they hold an opinion that in eleven thousand moons they are all to rise again, in each period the earth will turn upside down.” [footnoteRef:2] [2: (]

Gulliver becomes as a national “hero”, used by the army against the people of Blefuscu, the enemies of Lilliputians .He helps Lilliputians and they see him as their savior. The education system and the constitution of the Lilliput are given as a model to the other countries and more precisely to England, as I mentioned above, people of we can see from those details that Gulliver wants to judge the system of England and the way that things were working there by showing people that there is also another way of seeing the world and there is not only one kind of political activity and way of ruling the country.

In the part 2: A Voyage to Brobdingnag (20 June 1702-3 June 1706) we can continue to the next voyage that Gulliver is still not tired of exploration of places and cultures, Gulliver sets sail for another adventure and experience. He ends in the Brobdingnag, there Gulliver shows the contrary that existed in the island of Lilliput, in Brobdingnag he was smaller than the people who lived there and he is showing another side of the story, even though he is small in size in comparison with the people that lived there, they still gave him enough attention and importance, the queen for example ordered people to take care of this tiny man that came as a visitor to their place, since everything was big for him, they had to create the chair, the bed, clothes that Gulliver needed for his everyday life. Also a small box in which he could be carried around by other people, and that would help him to be safe. At the same time Guliver learns also the language of every place that he goes and pays attention to their culture, their lifestyle and the way they organize their life. The army was so good developed and with a lot of discipline.

He is saying that the science in this country isn’t that developed ,because the people living here, are interested only in morals, poetry and math. Math for example was developed only for their daily life needs ,for livestock, farm, agriculture. Even though Gulliver tried to persuade them that there are also some developed ideas about science in Europe, they did not want to accept this, because they were narrow minded.

They had a limited outlook which is unwilling to consider alternative and innovative ideas, perspectives or thoughts. The king in this example is a person who has a strong political position and who will not even listen to arguments or ideas from the other side. Also for the politics, there is no one in this kingdom brave or smart enough to give other interpretations to the laws . And the person that makes any comments or has anything against these laws ,will be sentenced to death . In that kingdom , the judge doesn’t always have to be too smart or to think too deep when giving his decision over civil or criminal issues . And there are no laws longer than 22 letters of their alphabet. Every single law is simple and clear . Even the literature is not that developed.

The biggest library was the king’s library with about 1000 volumes of books .The style that the authors from this country used to write was so clear, smooth, without too much details .It was like overweight and complicated ideas. These things show the development of literature, the army and some other important sciences. The reasoning of these people did not go that far. They were narrow minded and not using the sciences like math or physics for practical uses. Different land, different culture , different development, so all in all Gulliver is trying to show us that nothing is the same in different lands and countries, things change and what is normal in one place is not normal in another place.

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In addition to that, he ends up in the sea and then again sets sail for somewhere else, still motivated in exploring new lands and new culture and mentalities.

Part 3: A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi , Luggnagg ,Glubbdubdrib and Japan ( 5 August 1706-16 April 1710) this is the most interesting part of the journey ,because in this part are discussed a lot of things that have to do with science and reasoning and a lot of phenomena are discussed. Gulliver ends in the flying island of Laputa, He is astonished when he realizes that people can live in this island.

Furthermore, this kingdom was devoted to the arts of music, mathematics and astronomy, but were unable to use them for practical ends, the same like in other places that he visited he also tried to learn their language because that is the right way to understand the way people are thinking and you can go deeper in their culture. Also the sciences were so developed in this kingdom. Mathematics was used as a unit of measure, for everything. When they wanted to express their feelings or ideas they always used the knowledge they had from Mathematics. The Astronomy was well developed as well, The way that these human beings were able to talk all the time about politics about the country and laws astonished Gulliver. They were so connected to Astronomy, the people were even worried about the smallest change of position of planets in the sky, they were spending most of their time studying and analyzing astronomy ,plus their studies in science were so advanced. They had spend most of their energies observing the planets, the stars ,the sun and the moon, with telescopes of kind that Gulliver had not ever seen them before.

Furthermore we have to take in consideration that Gulliver is putting all of their developments on a pedestal because taking in consideration they were only the years 1700’ and many other countries that Gulliver knew did not have this kind of development. According to Swift he wanted to give as an example of a society that was ideal and perfect but it was built on fantasy.

What’s more from Laputa Gulliver, travels to Balnibarbi with its capital Lagado. Here Gulliver starts describing the architecture of the houses, the neighborhoods, the streets ,he pays special attention to their architecture ,the way that they were developing their lifestyle. Through details given we are shown that Gulliver makes a kind of analyzation of the structure of the life they had in connection so strongly with arts and sciences, and this is the part that Gullliver is never leaving without mentioning.

The people in Lagado were so attracted to Mathematics, so they started to have some ideas about creating a Grand Academy in Lagado, to develop the sciences of Literature, Physics, Arts and other sciences, in which some professors and scientists were being trained and busy all the time doing their researches. In this academy, professors would find new ways to develop architecture so they could build a huge building for one week, they would develop agriculture and manufacture at the same time. Gulliver describes in details the Academy, the professors who devoted their lives to the experiments and researches that they did. They had their own math, literature, philosophy, arts and political schools in Lagado, but Gulliver didn’t insist on giving them some critics or ideas of what they can change in the Academy.

Next Gulliver travels to Glubdubrib, he visits this place and discusses history, culture with ghosts of Julius Caesar, Brutus, Homer, Aristotel, Rene Decartes, meeting historical figures of the past that were important people because they created really important inventions for science and other fields of studies, plays. This is a fantastic element in the story.

Then again, he tours the island of Luggnagg, where he meets struldbrugs, people who are immortal, and prove that age doesn’t bring wisdom, and they are considered legally dead at the age of eighty. There Gulliver expresses his ideas, of what would he do if he was an immortal person. In this part we also have a way of reasoning and thinking, Gulliver is giving his own point of view for the life, being affected by the people who were immortal. As a man of science that he was, he would study the history of the world, the different civilizations geographical inventions in the world, astronomy inventions, he would compare the movement of the sun, stars, and the moon.

From the island of Lugganagg he goes to Japan,actually Japan is the only real island that Gulliver visited on his travels. All others are creations of Swift’s imaginations. and asks the Emperor “ to excuse his performing the ceremony imposed upon his countryman of trampling upon the crucifix, because he had been thrown into his kingdom by his misfortunes, without any intention of trading.”, which the Emperor does.[footnoteRef:3] [3: (]

In Part 4:A Voyage to the land of Houyhnhnms (7 September 1710-December 1715),Gulliver still returns to the sea ,again with the great desire of travelling and exploring new places and new cultures, developments of science and thinking and he ends up in the land of Houyhnhnm. Gulliver stars to learn their language and to be a part and a member of horses’ household and comes to admire and enjoy the lifestyle of the horses, rejecting his fellow humans. Again he tries to be a part of the customs of the land that he is visiting. He learns about the language, he learns about culture and traditions and costumes of that place. He compares them to the traditions in Europe and mostly with his country England. The leader of horses is really wondering about the way that Gulliver was reasoning, thinking and behaving, because that was so different from the way that he himself was thinking. In the horses society the concepts of “the truth” and “the lie” didn’t exist. Their “world” was not contaminated by the notions of lies and fraud.

Gulliver compares the world of the horses to the human world. And also concepts like: war, laws, punishment, crime didn’t exist. The leader of the horses wanted to know more about England about Europe and for the reason of why there exist wars in Europe. Gulliver explains to him how the british constitution works and the situation of all the Europe. Above all

Gulliver becomes so used to the lifestyle of the these horses that had the ability to reason and to think and by contrast from the world that Gulliver was from, they were so peaceful and happy creatures. With this in mind he did not want to return anymore to his country. He got used to traditions, to the way of living to their virtues in life so he was disgusted in the end when he returned home, by the people ,by the system and by everything that didn’t change during the period that he was not there. Everything had changed and nothing was the same.

[bookmark: _Hlk8878821]“The most ignorant person, at a reasonable charge, and with a little bodily labor, might write books in philosophy, poetry, politics, laws, mathematics, and theology, without the least assistance from genius or study”. [footnoteRef:4] [4: Jonathan Swift (2013). “Delphi Complete Works of Jonathan Swift (Illustrated)”, p.583, Delphi Classics]

Having said all of this, I can say that through this book, I can understand that even though the world that Gulliver came from was developed in science and reason, it was not the perfect and ideal world that Gulliver was dreaming of living in ,and this way he tried to give us another view of the world and the way on how a society can be, like the Houyhnhnms society and the other cultures that he visited .Swift himself ,by writing this book that in itself is a satire and fantasy, is trying to convince us that in a way we have to look beyond of what our society is consisting of and think of better ways of improving our world.


  1. Quote by Jonathan (1826).Gulliver’s Travels. (
  3. (
  4. Jonathan Swift (2013). “Delphi Complete Works of Jonathan Swift (Illustrated)”,p.583,Delphi Classics (

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