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gulliver - 1 English 154 Professor Charles Batten 29 May...

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English 154 Professor Charles Batten 29 May 2007 Form vs. Substance: Lemuel Gulliver and the Importance of Appearance Lemuel Gulliver in Jonathan Swift’s novel Gulliver's Travels , while serving as a vehicle for the disparagement of social institutions such as government and education through his interactions with various allegorical societies, also functions as a mockery of the human condition represented in the dubiousness of his own character. As Gulliver’s mental state overtly deteriorates in the progression of his journeys, being a seemingly educated physician and husband in Book I and arriving at the end of Book IV desperate and mad, Swift throughout the novel places Gulliver’s narration in question by many instances of irrationality in his actions as protagonist. Swift, in effect, while deriding the societal marks of “civility” and reason in Gulliver’s various journeys, civic institutions depicted within the novel as corrupt and impractical, the author also draws attention to perceived symbols of individual “civility” and, in turn, sanity in the person of Gulliver himself. Through Gulliver’s own discrepancies as narrator is Swift able to represent human nature’s hypocrisy, vanity, and inability to recognize personal imperfections. Gulliver functions as one of Swift’s most effective literary devices, using Gulliver’s instability to distance the reader from the narrator, he purposefully places the audience in Gulliver’s position as observer and judge, challenging them to see that Gulliver, in fact, is a representation of themselves. 1
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From the beginning of Book I and throughout the narrative of Gulliver’s Travels , Gulliver consciously attempts to establish his credibility and respectability as narrator and protagonist of his adventures by superficial means, diverting the reader with terse facts without revealing much about his own character. Relying on his education for the most sway, Gulliver quickly glosses over his birth and instead focuses on his schooling and status. He spends only one sentence describing his childhood and family, simply stating, “My father had a small estate in Nottinghamshire; I was the third of five sons” (25). In contrast to the passing and generalized description of his family and upbringing, Gulliver is very detailed in relating his education and his apprenticeship. He delineates that he was “sent to Emanuel-College in Cambridge, at fourteen years old, […] residing [there] three years,” took an apprenticeship to “Mr. James Bates, an eminent surgeon in London [for] four years,” and lists that he studied “navigation,” “mathematics,” as well as “physic two years and seven months” (25). Through Gulliver’s description of his own life in Book I, he reveals himself as an individual who bases one’s credibility more in the monetary sense of financial security than that of integrity and honesty.
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