Jumping Through Hoops

“This diversion is only practiced by those persons who are candidates for great employments, and high favour at court. They are trained in this art from their youth, and are not always of noble birth, or liberal education. When a great office is vacant, either by death or disgrace (which often happens,) five or six of those candidates petition the emperor to entertain his majesty and the court with a dance on the rope; and whoever jumps the highest, without falling, succeeds in the office.” (p1.ch3.pg2)

The story is told in the style of a travel log, meaning it is a first person narrative. In narratives like that of Rowlandson, it is typical to leave out personal emotion and tell the story in as dramatic a way as possible. Swift mocks this style by creating this outrageous, fictional place and writing about it with a dry tone, free of emotion. In this passage, he is satirizing his country’s government as well. He is observing these lower class people almost literally jumping through hoops just for a chance at getting a government job. The narrator is being completely objective in his telling about the situation. This objectivity carries a dual purpose–first, it is mocking narratives like Rowlandson’s where she talks about leaving behind the body of her child as if it were just a task on the to-do list, and second to make clear how desensitized an English citizen is to such common cruelty. The action of these people jumping the ropes is a parallel to the real world English government at that time. Swift makes Gulliver’s reactions dry and absent of emotion, but expects his readers to understand that in doing so, Swift himself is being ironic.

-Oliver Briggs

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