Thursday, March 02, 2006

Gullivers Travels

This is a paper that i had to write for my british literature class, its after i fixed it from the peer revies but i still have to fix it after meeting with prof. garrett

The Dehumanization and Role Reversal of Gulliver in
Part Two, Chapter Three of “Gulliver’s Travels”

In this part of “Gulliver’s Travels” Swift gives a vivid portrayal of Gulliver in Brobdingnag, where he is again the outcast in this land of giants. He is stripped of the general qualities that define him as a man and is lost somewhere between the gender roles. He is dehumanized many times; to that of an animal, a piece of clockwork, and to that of a doll. In these instances he begins to show more passive and womanly roles. This is thought by Showalter to have taken place because “in the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the term ‘woman’s sphere’ expressed the Victorian and Jacksoninan vision of separate roles for men and women, with no overlap and with women subordinate” (Showalter 260). Swift places women in the roles that they were seen in at the time, part of the “muted group”, (Showalter 261) and Gulliver is shown as being placed into this group as well.
The chapter begins by re-emphasizing the way Gulliver was treated by the Farmer. He “had quite lost his stomach, and was almost reduced to a skeleton” (Swift 2375), showing the way in which Gulliver was dehumanized to that of a pet or a circus animal. He was a commodity and the Queen was interested in him because of it, offering a small sum of money to the Farmer for him. Gulliver begged for Glumdalclitch to stay with him in the Kingdom, showing a traditionally feminist characteristic of dependence. The farmer quickly agreed to his daughter living in the Royal Kingdom, unsurprisingly since women are passive and men give “the word”. He emotionally exaggerated in saying “the life he had been leading was laborious enough to kill an animal of ten times his strength” (Swift 2376). He speaks to her in a manner learned from Glumdalclitch, to try and appeal to the Queens.
The Queen introduced Gulliver to the king, who “…had been educated in the study of philosophy and particularly mathematics; yet… conceived I might be a piece of clockwork contrived by some ingenious artist” (Swift 2377). The King thought he was made by some higher power and called upon his group of scholars to help figure out a logical answer to his presence. They “were of different opinions”; they said “I could not be produced according to the regular laws of nature” and “one of them seemed to think that I might be an embryo… they concluded unanimously that I was only relpum scalath”…a “wonderful solution of all difficulties” (Swift 2377). Relpum scalath is what the giants use to classify anything that does npt fit into their classifications. They chose to classify him through science related laws which shows strong logic and reason in the men. They looked at Gulliver’s teeth, judged whether or not he could support himself, and contemplated on whether or not he could be an abortive birth. They wanted clear boundaries and all they got was the unanimous conclusion that he couldn’t be classified at all. This whole discussion on science being used as the basis for classification shows Swift’s use of satire against it. Swift “inveighs against metaphysics, abstract logical deductions, and theoretical science” (Lipking 2064), so it is no wonder that the scholars cannot come up with a solution based on science alone.
After Gulliver is tossed into a category of uncertainty, he is given to the Queen, since it is she who holds the domestic quality. The Queen is not concerned with such science and reason and Gulliver’s relationship with her is like that with a doll or toy. The Queen and her materialistic qualities “commanded her own cabinetmakers to contrive a box… for a bedchamber” this bedchamber had “a bed furnished by her majesty’s upholsterer…was quilted on all sides… and the Queen ordered the thinnest silks… to make me clothes…” (Swift 2378). She had found herself a real live doll in which she housed in a beautifully crafted dollhouse and dressed in the fabrics that she would probably wear herself. She also makes Gulliver go everywhere that she goes “she could not dine without me” (Swift 2378) Gulliver says, “her diversion was to see me dine in miniature” (Swift 2379). The Queen would sit at the dinner table drinking from her “Golden Cup” while her son would ask Gulliver questions of high intellect, regarding manners, religion, and laws, again showing that women were quiet, passive and materialistic while men speak about intellectual concepts. The cause of this gender bias is due to the way it was regarded in the 1800’s. “By 1800 between 60 and 70 percent of adult men could read” and “a third of women could read by the mid-eighteenth century” (Lipking 2069). If men were more literate than women then there is no question of why Swift created his characters in this way. “Women constitute a muted group, the boundaries of whose culture and reality overlap, but are not wholly contained by, the dominant (male) group (Showalter 261). Gulliver was described as being a part of this muted group and given womanly characteristics because he was always the outcast, as many women were in the 1800’s.
The largest example of Gulliver losing his male characteristics is after he has stayed in the Kingdom for a while. “For having been accustomed several months to the sight and converse of these people… if I had then beheld a company of English Lords and Ladies acting…in the most courtly manner … I should have been strongly tempted to laugh at them as the King and his grandees did at me…I really began to imagine myself dwindled many degrees below my usual size” (Swift 2379-2380). Not only is he playing the passive role in being the Queen’s doll, he has become instable as well. He found that the Kingdom was not much different than the life with the Farmer. Although now he was given plenty of food and clothes, he was still living his life doing the same thing he did before, a performer for someone else to get a rouse out of, a hot commodity in a new place; the passive entertainer for “man”. Rather than money being made off of him, he was the Queen’s little pet of whom she played dress up with. Due to these instances, Gulliver was deprived of specific gender characteristics which resulted in his mixed arrangement of both. He began to realize his dissatisfaction with his new living arrangements as he felt himself growing smaller and smaller in a place where he was already the smallest thing around.
He no longer held the same thoughts about his homeland as he did before because he had been on display for a very long time. He grew instable, as many women do, and although not left physically emaciated as with the Farmer, he is left mentally deprived of many of the things he set out on his journey with. This shows Swift’s view of human nature perfectly. Swift “seemed to stand apart from his contemporaries”…he disagreed and even hated “the current optimistic view that human nature is essentially good” (Lipking 2302). “Gulliver’s Travels” shows this by presenting him with new people who upon initial acquaintance seem nice, but all end up being superior to Gulliver and don’t have trouble letting him feel as though he is below their kind. Swift can express his personal opinions and not face the consequences by saying it all through Gulliver’s perspective.
Whenever Gulliver has arrived at a new land the people have not been what they seem. The Lilliputions quickly turn on him, as did the Farmer. The land of the giants seemed to be wonderful for Gulliver, but he quickly realizes that this land is no better for him than his last. Everywhere he goes man is seen as the dominant gender and since he is the outcast of the area, is quickly given the role of the woman. This dehumanization is something that women of the era had to deal with quite frequently and Swift displays that very well through the use of satire and characters pushing Gulliver back into his frequent womanly role.


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