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Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels


by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver's Travels Lies and Deceit Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #1

He professed both to abominate and despise all mystery, refinement, and intrigue, either in a prince or a minister. He could not tell what I meant by secrets of state, where an enemy, or some rival nation, were not in the case. He confined the knowledge of governing within very narrow bounds, to common sense and reason, to justice and lenity, to the speedy determination of civil and criminal causes. (2.7.5)

The King of Brobdingnag is the first, lesser example of the kind of moralist we see at his best in the Master Horse. He is aware that there is such a thing as falsehood, but he totally despises it. Oddly, there are laws on the books in Lilliput that seem to express similar sentiments. Gulliver remarks that the Lilliputians punish fraud with death. Yet, their Emperor and nobility lie all the time. Perhaps Swift is using this note about Lilliputian law to poke fun at the degeneration of England from its high principles to its current predicaments.

Quote #2

But as to honour, justice, wisdom, and learning, they should not be taxed at all; because they are qualifications of so singular a kind, that no man will either allow them in his neighbour or value them in himself. (3.6.7)

The political projectors in Balnibarbi spend some time trying to figure out how to raise money. They immediately dismiss the idea of taxing good qualities in people – honor, justice, wisdom, and learning – because this kind of honesty is: (a) too rare, (b) would never be admitted by the guy's jealous neighbors.

Quote #3

It is first agreed and settled among them, what suspected persons shall be accused of a plot; then, effectual care is taken to secure all their letters and papers, and put the owners in chains. These papers are delivered to a set of artists, very dexterous in finding out the mysterious meanings of words, syllables, and letters: for instance, they can discover a close stool, to signify a privy council; a flock of geese, a senate; a lame dog, an invader. (3.6.12)

Here, Gulliver is describing the process by which men accused of crimes against the state are often framed by their enemies. These enemies seize their papers and twist their words into a kind of fake code indicating wrongdoing. This kind of judicial lying truly disturbs Gulliver, because (obviously) the law is supposed to protect people. In this political climate, however, it's being used to persecute them instead.

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