Swift’s A Voyage To Lilliput And Animal Farm Essay, Research Paper

When comparing any publication, it is important to first establish the motive for the writing of each. Both Animal Farm and Gulliver‚s Travels are political satires, aimed at pointing out faults with society with the use of subtle mockery, sarcasm and irony, and changing people’s views towards it. When reading them however, the two appear completely different. The main reason for this is they were satirising completely different things. George Orwell exposes Stalinism by writing, in the form of an allegory, the chronological history of the Russian revolution. Jonathon Swift on the other hand, appears to have no single target and attacks 17th century society in general along with including personal vengeances. The most noticeable thing the books have in common is the way they use fantasy characters to represent the situation in Russia/England. Swift writes Gulliver‚s Travels in the form of a travel log whereas Orwell goes as far as to call Animal Farm a fairy tale. These two different forms of recording events suit the authors’ purposes perfectly. Orwell sticks to the chronological history of Russia and dramatises it. Animal Farm has a definite plot and so can be called a satirical novel. Swift however, has multifarious objectives. The mockery seems far less subtle than in Animal Farm and this is partly because Swift has no chronology to follow. There had been no revolutions in England at the time and no world wars that he could use to add excitement. He therefore has to keep referring back to English customs by sarcastically (and in my opinion rather blatantly) insisting that they are very different from those back home: “There are some laws and customs in this Empire very peculiar, and if they were not so directly contrary to those of my own dear country, I should be tempted to say a little in their justification.‰ The travel book gives Swift an excuse to use his obvious sarcasm. If Gulliver had existed, he would have certainly mentioned Europe in his account. Indeed, Swift goes to great lengths to make Gulliver’s Travels as believable as possible without losing its purpose. He describes everything in minute detail which in turn is accounted for by Gulliver’s character. He is a doctor and a linguist which instantly explains away the language barrier and his unnatural attention to detail. This in itself mocks travel books at the time which were very similar to each other in going into boring detail. The detail Gulliver includes in his account however, is often there to serve a satirical purpose. For example, Swift seems to have an unhealthy obsession with bodily functions and other 17th century taboos. He describes Gulliver’s movements far more than any other author would have dared at the time. It is Gulliver’s reaction to having to undertake these rituals that provides the satire here. In some ways he is ridiculously proud of himself (his torrent of urine compared to the Lilliputians’ and the size of his genitals); in others he is embarrassed to the point where he seriously inconveniences himself (when he relieves himself in his own sleeping space to avoid the embarrassment of doing it in public, for example). This not only provides more realism to the voyage, but also mocks humanity. Humans have physical needs just like animals, yet they don’t take them for granted like other creatures. They are proud or ashamed of their bodies. In this case, Gulliver is not portrayed as morally inferior/superior to the Lilliputians (as is Swift usual method of mocking Europe in this book), but to animal nature. This theme is elaborated upon in the later voyages (especially in Gulliver’s encounter with the Yahoos). Orwell’s use of a fairy tale makes it more obvious when he strays from satire and simply stimulates the plot. It does mean that Animal is Farm is an easier book to read as it is far more exiting. Swift almost intentionally makes Gulliver’s Travels irritatingly detailed whereas Orwell intricately invents the personalities in Animal Farm and adds extra events or condenses existing ones when the history becomes boring. In contrast, Gulliver seems to have no personality at all. He never gets excited or emotional about any of the bizarre events taking place. This means Swift can use him to describe Lilliput very accurately without possibility of bias. It also means Gulliver can be the perfect tenor of the satire. The only time he does seem to form opinions is hen he himself is part of the satire. It is not only puzzling that he is over-concerned with his bodily functions but also his attitudes to nobility. He appears overwhelmed simply by being in the presence of the emperor and goes out of his way to try and impress him, e.g. the parade on his handkerchief. Here we are encourage to scorn him as he represents people’s unfounded respect for nobility. In other parts of the voyage, Gulliver is involved in the satire by being morally superior to the Lilliputians. He does not believe in brutally crushing the retreating enemy over petty beliefs. Princely ingratitude features here as one of Swifts victims of attack. When Gulliver refuses to destroy the Blefecudian fleet, the Lilliputian prince is outraged and it is eventually decided that Gulliver should volunteer to have his eyes poked out. This is a prime example of one of Swift’s expressions of his personal feelings about English royalty. Earlier in the book, when Gulliver saves the palace by urinating on it, the empress turns against him. This relates directly to Swift’s experience with Queen Anne and his book, “The Tale of the Tub.” Unlike Gulliver’s Travels, Animal Farm makes no direct reference to that which it satirises. Russia isn’t mentioned once and as a child the novel can be taken simply as an adequate fairy tale. (In fact, I think I did.) Orwell puts a lot of effort into making the plot enjoyable and yet never sacrifices his satire. He doesn’t include as much as Swift however, so it is easier for him to do this. He injects humour that had no place in history: e.g. the pigs’ consumption of alcohol and their interpretations of hang-overs as terminal illnesses; also, squealers attempt at climbing a ladder and Boxer’s inability to learn more than three letters of the alphabet at a time. In some cases this humour is used to ridicule the Communists (”reducto ad absurdum”). The overly flattering poem of Minimus is the epitome of Napoleon’s self importance yet it is not actually that far away from the truth, when Stalin dictated what was art, and banned everything that was not pro-Communist. Animal Farm creates a sympathy, mainly for the common Russian. The reader receives the situation mainly through the eyes of the common animals and becomes attached to them. When hardship after hardship befalls them, we feel sorry for them . We are frustrated by their short-sightedness and although we can laugh at their gullibility, it is a dark humour. On the other hand we are invited to feel angry towards the intelligentsia for realising, but doing nothing. When comparing the satire of Animal Farm and Gulliver’s Travels, it seems that Orwell uses far less blatant techniques and the result appears more sophisticated. He includes strong personal opinions just like Swift as he had Trotskyite sympathies. Animal Farm forces us to empathise with the revolutionaries and so side with true Socialism. This is how Orwell tells us his views. He doesn’t state them, but presents his argument in such an enveloping way that the conclusions we draw are the same as his. In contrast, Swift’s satire covers a much broader spectrum, ranging from religion and human pride, to contemporary affairs and scientists. In this way, Gulliver’s travels is a more challenging book to read if you are trying to search for satire as the tenor keeps swapping: sometimes he is criticising Gulliver and sometimes the Lilliputians. It also makes it harder to read as he completely packs his books with attire, taking every opportunity to include another personal “stab” at those he resented. In the case of Swift’s irritation over those in power who weren’t born into it, he resorts to a pun to get his message across that politicians are mere acrobats, performing for the Prime-Minister. He crams in so many of his personal opinions that I feel the important points are lost in a sea of criticism and one can no longer take them seriously. Orwell on the other hand, delivers his views in a far more presentable fashion. His fairy tale may not be as intellectually stimulating as Swift’s novel, but its simplicity means his argument is far more likely to have an effect on the reader. He carefully structures his debate and leaves us with a resounding sound-bite: In a final ironical twist, Orwell composes the ultimate Animalist/Communist law: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”.

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