Gulliver's Travels Themes

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Human Condition

Gulliver's Travels is political satire in the form of an adventure novel. Swift creates several fantasy worlds to which his character, Lemuel Gulliver, travels, and where he learns that English institutions, such as the government and social structure, are not necessarily ideal.

Swift subscribed to the pre-Enlightenment, Protestant idea that man is by nature sinful, having fallen from perfection in the Garden of Eden. While man is a rational animal, his rationality is not always used for good. Therefore, one should not hold up rationality as the greatest human quality, as many Enlightenment thinkers did. It is the human condition, Swift felt, to sin: to be deceitful, cruel, selfish, materialistic, vain, foolish, and otherwise flawed. Rationality and institutions such as governments, churches, and social structures (schools, for example) exist to rein in man's tendency to sin, to keep him in line.

These beliefs of Swift's are evident...

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This section contains 1,179 words
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Gulliver's Travels from Novels for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.