by Jonathan Swift
Gulliver's Travels Theme of Politics
Gulliver does not approve of politics, at least, as they are practiced in contemporary times: court intrigue is what gets him driven out of Lilliput. He also remarks that the passion the Laputians have for discussing politics is inversely related to how much they actual know about it – a common failing. It is one thing to think carefully about what it means to have good government, as the Brobdingnagian King does. It's something else again to use politics and government as a way of getting jobs for your friends (the Lilliputian Emperor), forcing your subjects to flatter and obey you (the Luggnaggian King), or exploiting the lands around you for money (the Laputian King).
Questions About Politics
- Why does Gulliver seem to believe that more politics automatically means worse government? What does "politics" seem to mean in Gulliver's satires?
- How might Gulliver explain the purpose of politics? Does it interfere with or supplement government? Can we have a government without politics?
- Do the Houyhnhnms have any kind of political system? Why or why not? If you answer yes, than how do their politics differ from human/Yahoo politics? If you answer no, then why does their society avoid politics?
Chew on This
Swift's satire of Lilliput's imperial court demonstrates the danger of using political power and influence to settle personal rivalries.
Because the Houyhnhnms do not believe in opinions or in particular loyalties of any kind, they cannot have a political system in this novel. Gulliver associates politics strictly with factions and partisanship.