Rowlandson and Gulliver

  • Isabel P

Satire and the Enlightenment. Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels is a satire that is essentially a critique on colonial expansion around the world and specifically was chose to poke fun of indecencies caused by the greed and accounts of such travels to new places. The relationship between Gulliver and Lilliputians people is essentially a satirical comparison to that of colonial powers and natives.

Lilliputians represents colonial powers, although they think they are strong because of their weapons specifically the arrows Gulliver is afraid of, and with Gulliver representing natives. The Lilliputians are a critic of how small colonial powers really are and Gulliver serves to be shown as a submissive character that is supposed to represent natives. The power struggling seeming to be ridiculous due to Gulliver being able to retaliate because of his size, but for some reason he is scared of small insignificant, it seems, weapons. Gulliver is letting himself be treated like this because with his size we could assume he could do whatever he wanted against these small(er) people.

The emperor, with the ridiculous way of trying to defend themselves by having a small miniature weapon (sword) on him, seems to demonstrate the naivety of colonial powers and how with this irony. A small weapon and small man against a giant, doesn’t seem right, right? This parallels Enlightenment due to the satire of the whole situation and the whole situation is separated from reason. This example when compared to Mary Rowlandson tobacco smoking is ironic. She acts as if Natives are barbaric for smoking although she has done it too her justification being her past naivety and religion. Reason not being a strong suit by both oppressive powers to demonize what they don’t know.

Rowlandson with the Natives in comparison to Lilliputians and Gulliver. Although both are animalized, and taken advantage of, for different reasons they both face the sad irony of dehumanization due to wrongful entitlement.

For example:

“I took them all in my right hand, put five of them into my coat-pocket; and as to the sixth, I made a countenance as if I would eat him alive.  The poor man squalled terribly, and the colonel and his officers were in much pain, especially when they saw me take out my penknife: but I soon put them out of fear; for, looking mildly, and immediately cutting the strings he was bound with, I set him gently on the ground, and away he ran.  I treated the rest in the same manner, taking them one by one out of my pocket; and I observed both the soldiers and people were highly delighted at this mark of my clemency, which was represented very much to my advantage at court (Part 1, Chapter 2).”

As for what is demonstrated is that Gulliver has the real power although he is being held “captive.” And in comparison to Rowlandson; she too held the real power. She, even though, she went through her towns demolition by retaliating natives, but  she ultimately had all the power because of her ties to Colonial English forces. Because ultimately the retaliation of colonial powers sadly represents the animalization, taking advantage of, and murder of natives. Especially with the spread of ideologies demonstrating the animalization of natives like how it had been done by Rowlandson.

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