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Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels

by Jonathan Swift

Morality and Ethics Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #7

Difference in opinions has cost many millions of lives: for instance, whether flesh be bread, or bread be flesh; whether the juice of a certain berry be blood or wine; whether whistling be a vice or a virtue; whether it be better to kiss a post, or throw it into the fire; what is the best colour for a coat, whether black, white, red, or gray; and whether it should be long or short, narrow or wide, dirty or clean; with many more. Neither are any wars so furious and bloody, or of so long a continuance, as those occasioned by difference in opinion, especially if it be in things indifferent. (4.5.3)

The first references here – flesh being bread and blood being wine – are to the Catholic belief in transubstantiation during Communion. We really find it interesting that Swift dismisses differences between Catholic and Protestant beliefs considering that he is an eighteenth century Anglican clergyman. This detail makes us want to read his religious satires for more clues on his views.

Quote #8

It is a very kingly, honourable, and frequent practice, when one prince desires the assistance of another, to secure him against an invasion, that the assistant, when he has driven out the invader, should seize on the dominions himself, and kill, imprison, or banish, the prince he came to relieve (4.5.4)

Where before, in Brobdingnag, Gulliver protests that he wants to defend England's reputation, and the irony in the text seems to emerge at his expense, here, the sarcasm is more directly Gulliver's. The statement that it is a "kingly, honourable, and frequent" practice to invade and occupy countries that have come to you for protection is not meant to be taken at face value.

Quote #9

But when a creature pretending to reason could be capable of such enormities, he dreaded lest the corruption of that faculty might be worse than brutality itself. He seemed therefore confident, that, instead of reason we were only possessed of some quality fitted to increase our natural vices. (4.5.8)

For the Master Horse, the purpose of reason is entirely unified with morality: to be reasonable is to be ethical. Therefore, to see a Yahoo who claims to be reasonable, but who still comes from a land of such total vice seems impossible to the Master Horse. It makes no sense, so he tries to come up with an alternative explanation: Gulliver looks reasonable, but he can't be.

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